Firefighters Return Home after Weeks of Battling the Camp Fire

SACRAMENTO -- The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history is finally 100 percent contained.

However, with at least 85 people dead and more than 14,000 buildings destroyed, the nightmare of the fire is far from over.

Wildfires are nothing new for firefighters in Sacramento but the Camp Fire was unlike anything they’d ever seen. On Sunday, they were thankful to be home safe, knowing first-hand many victims of the fire weren't as lucky.

Racing toward the flames in Paradise, Sacramento Metro Fire Capt. Neil Weitzel knew he had his work cut out for him.

“Really it was a worst-case scenario,” Weitzel said. “The wind was just lined up perfectly to push the fire right through Paradise.”

He’s part of a strike team made up of firefighters from Sacramento, Folsom and Cosumnes fire departments. They’ve spent more than two weeks fighting the Camp Fire.

“There’s only so much you can do. Your priority becomes getting people to safety," Weitzel told FOX40. "You can’t stop it because the ember cast and the heat is just going to ... There isn’t enough water to be effective."

When he arrived in Butte County the first day of the fire, his focus was on evacuating the people still left.

“You could hear the fire and it was coming down the road,” Weitzel said.

Sacramento Fire Department Capt. Rick Marrs was across town trying to save buildings and homes in Paradise.

“We had successes, we saved some houses," he said. "Saved one house and a neighborhood. But there were other houses that we would start working on protecting and the wind would change or something next to it would catch on fire and that would be just beyond our control."

Marrs spent the next two weeks working to put out hot spots around Butte County while Weitzel went to the fire lines.

Now home in Sacramento, both men are thankful to be alive and thinking constantly of the people who once called Paradise home.

“We have the advantage when we go into something like that, we bring tools and equipment and training," Weitzel said. "Trying to imagine surviving something like that without all the benefits we have is ... you wonder how they did it. You look and you pray and you look for opportunities to help them when you can."

Some firefighters were just heading up to Paradise Sunday to help search for people who died in the fire.

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