Panic, chaos heard in North Bay Fire 911 calls

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For the first time since last October's deadly North Bay wildfires, CalFire released hours of transcripts, incident reports, dispatch audio and 911 calls that depict panic and confusion during the fire storm.

 

On Friday, the 2 Investigates team reviewed the documents and audio clips to get a better understanding of the communications breakdown and the urgency needed to save people and property.

 

It was a Sunday night in October, 2017, when a wind event quickly turned into a fast-moving series of wildfires that caught most everyone off guard. In the end, 44 people lost their lives and thousands of structures were destroyed.

 

“We’re trying to escape now,” one mother from Calistoga exclaimed in a call to 911. “Let’s get out, let’s go, let’s go!”

 

Some of the most terrifying moments include people explaining they were caught at their homes and had no way out.

 

“We’re trapped, we can’t get out,” one caller said. “We’re going to die.”

 

After being told to get somewhere safe, another caller told a dispatcher she only had once choice. “We can go to the pool. We can get in the pool and get under the tarp. Okay, we are going to get to our pool.”

 

Before the fire quickly spread, many panicking people called concerned the wind would take hold of trees and power lines and cause damage.

 

“The wind is blowing really, really hard and I think it’s making the wires that’s just above the street hit each other or something,” one woman said.

 

“The fire is spreading fast,” a man told a dispatcher. “I think it’s electrical from the wind… downed power lines I’m guessing.”

 

Soon, dispatchers became overwhelmed as they were inundated with calls. To make matters worse, communications towers went down in certain areas making keeping track and communicating with first responders increasingly difficult.

 

At one point, dispatch audio explains the need for 30 or 50 more engines to help battle the raging Atlas Peak fire. In another audio clip, no ambulances were available to help burn patients in need.

 

CalFire says its continuing to review the 911 audio and  plans to release more tapes.

 

To hear and see more watch the video above.

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