RANCHO CORDOVA -- Firefighters from the Sacramento area were beginning to return from fighting the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County Monday.
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District sent several strike teams that were in the middle of the firefight.
Battalion Chief Kevin Wegener was relieved to be coming home to his wife and kids. He was thankful that he had a home to come back to, unlike the tens of thousands of residents who were affected by the Camp Fire.
Firefighters knew it was bad before they got on scene.
"When we were getting ready we were hearing stories of the town itself burning," Wegener said.
But nothing could have prepared them for what confronted them. When they got into downtown Paradise, a massive strip mall was already on fire.
It was hard for them to know where to start but they picked out a target and went to work.
It was their strike team that took a stand and attacked the fire burning the Holiday Market. They got onto the roof and moved into the interior with hoses. It was one of the few businesses that were saved and it is now serving area residents.
The next day, they were sent to residential Magalia, where they had to let some homes burn while saving the ones that weren’t too far gone.
"There was a lot more structures on fire than we had apparatus to put it out," Wegener told FOX40.
Some of the most unnerving moments came when they fought flames as relief valves on propane tanks hissed while being pressurized by the heat.
The loss of life and property was sobering for firefighters, whose mental state is monitored even when they’re home.
"We’ve been checking our people," Wegener said. "As of right now, I think they’re handling it well and I think that is a lot to do with them getting some satisfaction saving some property and some folks up there."
Over the days they realized that, in terms of structures and lives lost, the Camp Fire has become one for the record books.
"Not the best records, obviously, to have and it will be something I think the guys will remember for a long time," Wegener said.