San Diego

CVFD Chief Recounts ‘Total Chaos' of Woolsey Fire Fight

The first 48 hours on the ground of the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County was "total chaos" for a Chula Vista fire team sent to support crews as the fast-moving blaze spread towards Malibu. 

"There was horses running around that were burned, lose animals, people literally running from the fire on foot because their vehicles had run off the road," Chula Vista Fire Department Battalion Chief David Albright recounted in an interview with NBC 7. 

Albright and his team of firefighters were called to the Ventura County the night after the Woolsey Fire erupted, on Nov. 8, and as residents were being evacuated. For nearly 50 hours, the team worked non-stop to do what they could to save homes and aid residents. 

One of their first firefights was near Mullholand Highway as the fire began spreading towards Malibu, Albright said. 

The team on that day, "saved four or five houses and unfortunately saw 40 or 50 of them burn down around us," he recalled. "Initially the excitement gets you through, but then you got to deal with everything that you saw."

Chula Vista firefighters battled erratic winds and walls of flames that were quickly spreading flames from home to home. Albright said most of the time, they had to react to the "dynamic" fire. 

The blaze would eventually grow to 97,000 acres and claim the lives of four people. At least 1500 buildings were destroyed and hundreds more were damaged, according to Cal-Fire.

Albright said he hopes firefighters get a break soon from devastating wildfires that appear to no longer abide by what was once dubbed "fire season." 

"Something in the last five or six years, whether its drought, global warming, something is changing the fires and they are absolutely burning as intense as they ever have, if not more intense than I have ever seen," he said. 

Meanwhile, firefighters will continue to put their lives on the line to do what they can to save people's property and lives, he said. 

"You do risk your life but it’s our job… You talk to any firefighter, we do it because we believe in it." 

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