By Matthias Gafni and David Debolt, Mercury News:
By the early afternoon of Nov. 8, the Camp Fire had swallowed Paradise and was headed southwest toward Chico and Oroville.
A hand strike team was sent to the front lines, a mix of Cal Fire firefighters and California prison inmates. They had to help protect Butte College and the nearby heavily populated areas.
Two teams headed up Clark Road and began scouting areas to set back fires, to try and burn up fuel so the incoming beast of a fire had nothing left to devour.
As they stood along Rattlesnake Flats Road — an undulating, one-lane dirt farm road, flanked by barbed wire fences — the favorable winds suddenly switched directions and picked up velocity. The Camp Fire had them trapped. Two inmates and a fire captain would be seriously burned in the lightning quick event, but survive.
The harrowing story of the Cal Fire crew and their inmate colleagues had not been publicly reported until Friday when state fire investigators released a Green Report, launched after any firefighter injuries or deaths, about the five firefighter injuries from the Camp Fire. Despite claiming at least 86 civilian lives, the Camp Fire had spared any firefighter deaths, but in those first 24 hours of the firefight there were two close calls.
The Rattlesnake Flats burnover, and also an exploding propane tank that launched shrapnel at two firefighters protecting a home in Magalia. All but one of the firefighters were released from the hospital the same day, except the Cal Fire captain from Rattlesnake Flats, who was finally released from the hospital last week, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said.
Read the full story here.