“Saw a tremendous explosion, a huge fireball probably 150 feet or more in the air, and we both kind of just paused for a second trying to kind of grasp what we actually saw,” said Modesto Fire Division Chief Tim Tietjen. “And then I realized that we were right next to the airport, and so I told Chief Bray, ‘That’s a plane crash, there’s no doubt, that’s a plane crash.’”
The crews manning the five engines that are part of the strike team said they quickly realized there was no one to save from the burning wreckage. The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has since reported six people died in the crash.
But the strike team told FOX40 they found themselves well-equipped to prevent the tragedy from worsening.
“It’s kind of what we’re used to. This is our job, right?” said Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Battalion Chief Clint Bray. “We are emergency responders, so there isn’t a lot of time to go ‘woo.’ It’s reactionary and we respond appropriately, providing a service.”
“This was really one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that happened,” Tietjen said.
The sheriff’s office said learning the victims’ identities could take weeks due to the fire the crash caused.