Body camera video shows terrifying evacuations during North Bay wildfires

ByKate Larsen via KGO logo
Monday, May 21, 2018
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Dramatic new video shows the terrifying moments when Santa Rosa police evacuated houses during the North Bay wildfires.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Terrifying body cam footage, obtained by ABC7 media partner Bay Area News Group, shows Santa Rosa police officers running door-to-door, pleading with people to evacuate on October 8 and 9, the night the North Bay wildfires started.

"It's like life or death right now... gotta get those people out of here," says one officer. Another officer can be seen speaking to a man in a driveway saying, "just get in, we don't have time for shoes. Why didn't you leave earlier? Did you know?"

"All of Santa Rosa is completely on fire," says an officer over the radio, who then explains that he believes his own home is on fire.

The footage serves as a lesson for those confronted with wildfires in the future. One clip shows police advising Ken and Nancy Mazzoni to leave their home in Coffey Park which is surrounded by smoke and ash. One officer asks Ken what his plan is and Ken replies, "to stand here with a hose." Two officers try to reason with Ken saying, "sir, you're going to put a lot of people in danger. The fire is one row of houses over, it's coming at us. It's huge. Sir please, we need to get you out of here."

RELATED: North Bay residents struggle to figure out housing plans after devastating fires

ABC7 caught up with Nancy Mazzoni on Sunday at the empty lot where their house once stood, "we lost everything we've ever owned." Still in shock over the fires, Nancy cries while describing the destruction. She visits the lot three times a day, in part because she's looking for one of her two cats, who she believes survived the fire. They found the burned remains of their other cat on the lot after the fire.

Nancy and her husband survived because they eventually evacuated, what Nancy believes was minutes before their house caught fire. In hindsight and after seeing the police body camera footage, Mazzoni says she would have done a few things differently the night the fires started. "Our cats would have been first. I had two carriers," Nancy said through tears. She says she would have left sooner and packed up important items, "the wedding album and then the family things."

Nancy also says homeowners should ensure they have adequate fire insurance and takes steps to protect their homes. "You gotta have the gutter covers so there's no leaf debris, you gotta cover your vents so no flying embers can get in."

RELATED: PG&E unveils new wildfire safety operations center in wake of deadly North Bay fires

Chris Rogers is the Vice Mayor of Santa Rosa and says listening to law enforcement saves lives. "If not for that act of bravery that act of courage that you see in those videos, we would have lost a lot more people here in Santa Rosa." But Rogers says the evacuation orders should have been taken more seriously. "There were numerous occasions where law enforcement had to redivert their resources to try to make sure people had left or were staying out when they could have been helping others get out of the fire."

Click here to see more of the body cam footage. Or watch the videos below:

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay fires.