Santa Rosa bus drivers saved hundreds of lives during North Bay fires

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A Santa Rosa CityBus may be the last place anyone might look for a first-responder. But, the views outside, today, bear no resemblance to the night of October 9th.

"This intense glow here is the Hilton Hotel," said Steve Roraus while pointing at orange flames on a video monitor. He is a superintendent, and also one of six drivers who came to work in the midst of the North Bay Firestorm.

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The others include John Kay. He came to work despite losing his house, that night. John is a former fireman who actually reached some areas before the firefighters.

"What was the fireman in you saying?" we asked.

"You don't belong here," he replied.

"What was the bus driver in you saying?"

"You have no choice. Get through it."

More than once, drivers wondered if they would. Steve Roraus is the most well-known, now, because he saved video from the cameras on board. They recorded his first stop at the Brookdale memory care facility, where staff began loading patients.

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By the time Steve left, they filled every seat. One camera shows Steve reassuring passengers them as they leave for a shelter, while only he knew the terror, ahead. "There were times when the only choice was to go forward," said Steve. "I couldn't turn around. I'm thinking that I'll either make it, or I won't."

Steve says the worst moments had to be as he drove his precious cargo through the inferno of Coffey Park. "There are rivers of embers blowing down the street. I could feel the heat. The embers were blowing under our bus."

"What do you do at a time like that?" we asked.

"You keep going."

By the end of that night, Steve Roraus and his fellow drivers saved 400 lives. They never received medals, but finally, with the release of this video, Santa Rosa's bus drivers are finally getting their due.

For more stories, photos, and video on the North Bay fires, visit this page.
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