Battalion Chief Paul Duncan of Hidden Valley is one of seven firefighters who lost their homes this week while fighting the Valley and Butte fires.
"I looked out the window of my house and saw smoke" Duncan, who has been a firefighter for 28 years, told FOX40.
"My first reaction is, 'I want to go to work. I want to try and save what I can.' That's just my nature," he said.
It was his day off, but Duncan grabbed his gear, hopped in his truck and drove eight miles, leaving his wife Courtney, and three children behind.
"I really didn't realize how bad this fire really was," he said.
Within two hours, there was trouble at home.
"I was trapped," his wife Courtney, who is a Cal Fire dispatcher said. "I felt like a mouse in a maze."
Traffic was wall to wall in Hidden Valley and Duncan's family was trapped in a circle of flames.
"He texted us and 'said just drive through the flames... is there someone stopping you from driving?' I said 'no.' 'Then just go,' he said."
The Duncan's escaped, but their home was reduced to ashes.
Only a few items are recognizable, like the washing machine and garage door.
"In hindsight, I would do it again. I couldn't do any more at the house, (yet) I had the ability to do more for others," he said.
And he did, Duncan says he and his team were table to save Cobb Elementary School.
"That just reaffirms, for me, that I'm in the right profession and that I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing," Duncan told FOX40.
By Thursday, the Valley Fire's fifth day, 73,700 acres had burned.
To help Duncan and the seven firefighter families who lost their homes, go to http://fox40.com/2015/09/14/please-help-california-wildfire-relief/