BUTTE COUNTY — As the Camp Fire raged through Paradise, Colusa Police Sgt. Jarrod Hughes knew he had to get out fast.
“We just started packing. I saw the flames, I went down the road for a second,” Hughes recalled Sunday. “Saw the flames, saw how close they were. We just threw the animals and a suitcase and a backpack in the truck.”
All he could think about was getting his 14-year-old son, Austin, to safety.
“It was chaos. People were just abandoning animals and cars, running,” he said.
He made it out of his hometown, making sure his son was OK. Then he went right back to work.
“I get my uniform and my patrol car and head back up to help,” Hughes told FOX40.
He spent the rest of the day and night helping with evacuations while his own home burned.
“It’s my home. I loved it there,” Hughes said.
But even after learning he had lost everything he was still out there working. He has been focused on finding the people missing and those who died.
“It’s my community, it’s where I grew up. It’s something I absolutely had to do,” Hughes said. “There was no question about it. It was get my family to safety so I can get in and get back up there and help everybody else.”
He was not alone. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office estimated more than 30 of their deputies lost homes in the fire but they were still reporting for duty.
Hughes was just thankful his family made it out alive.
“But my heart breaks for the ones that didn’t,” he said.
He told FOX40 he is hopeful his community will be able to rise from the ashes.
“I plan on rebuilding,” Hughes said. “Hopefully everybody rebuilds. We’ll survive.”