OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Members of Oakland's Station One Firehouse talked about the day they ran into a three-story building on San Pablo Avenue on the morning of March 27. From the firefighters' perspective, it was tragic.
"I was asleep in my bunk and the tone came in," says Oakland Firefighter Paramedic Raul Hurtado.
"When we hear those bells we know it’s time to work," says Oakland Firefighter Jerome Boyd.
The crew knew time was of the essence. "I could smell it. I could smell it from a block away. As we were approaching you could see the embers in the air," says Hurtado.
"As soon as we stepped off the truck, there were people yelling at us that there were people trapped and people in the windows," says Oakland Firefighter Paramedic Robert Murphy.
They describe the scene as chaotic. With many people who lived in the transitional housing complex stuck with no place to go. "They had actually tied sheets together like in one of those cartoons and they were trying to make like a rope to climb down," says Murphy.
Firefighters say this is what they train for as they quickly jumped into action. "We pulled the fire escape down tied it off and off we went to the second and third floor," says Hurtado.
"First was a lady she reached out and I pulled her kind of pull her over the railing. The next was a gentleman that also reached out and I pulled him," says Boyd.
The members of Station One were responsible for rescuing seven people from the building. Sadly all lives weren't spared, as four people died in the fire.
"When you're a firefighter you want to save everybody, so it's upsetting when you can't do that," says Murphy. "It’s a tragedy, we do everything we can within our power to save as many people as we can and we did that day," says Oakland Firefighter Daniel Kitt.
In all, Oakland firefighters saved the lives of more than 20 people. However, they say knowing that some people didn't make it out alive will stay with these firefighters forever.
“This is something that I will grow from and learn from and build to become a better firefighter,” says Kitt. "You did have a loss of life, but you look at how many people are able to see another day," says Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Erik Logan.