SANTA ROSA, Calif. -- October 8th marks the one year anniversary of the North Bay fires that destroyed more than 8,300 structures and left 44 people dead. As tragic as that is, the death toll could have been much worse, if not for the selfless efforts of first responders and volunteers.
In the hard-hit city of Santa Rosa, the police were wearing body cameras. Now, a year later, video from those cameras gives us a window into what it was like for the heroes who stepped up that night.
The officers drove through flames and flying embers as structure after structure after structure was burning alongside the roads.
Officer Orlando Macias was dispatched to one of the city's retirement communities, nestled in the burning hills. He arrived to a multitude of helpless faces peering out from the darkness.
Macias remembers the power was out everywhere, and he walked into the lobby "and there's just a sea of elderly folks. I kind of at that point said, alright, what are we supposed to do now?"
As the clock was ticking fire surrounded the facility.
"For anyone to say they weren't scared, (they are) lying through their teeth," Macias said.
With only smaller police and fire vehicles on the scene, there was no way Macias and the other first responders could get all those people safely evacuated. Then a call comes that an unlikely rescuer is on the way. Santa Rosa's bus drivers, navigate their way through the fire and up the hill, volunteering their services, they risk their own lives to evacuate the masses of the stranded and the vulnerable.
According to Macias, "The true heroes of that incident were those bus drivers. I took an oath, I said I will face all these bad things. Those guys didn't. And yet-- that was awesome, it was just humanity at its best. I just started grabbing people and helping them on to the bus as fast as possible, but as calm as possible too."
Macias body cam video confirms that he too was part of the heroism of that night. He remains calm and even jokes with elderly residents as he helps load them into buses.
"I want to treat everybody like I would my family. You know that lady who is looking at me in the wheelchair, it could be my mom. How would I want somebody to treat my mom?" Macias said.
Eventually, the buses were loaded and the residents are driven to an evacuation center. But as they were leaving, a neighboring complex burned to the ground.
Go here for full coverage on the North Bay fires.