PARADISE, Calif. — As the town burned, Butte County Deputy Aaron Parmley turned on his body camera to capture what he thought would be the last moments of his life.
The camera reveals a landscape veiled in dark pink. The Camp Fire — which would eventually become the deadliest wildfire in California history, killing 88 people — had entered the town of Paradise.
“Okay, okay,” he whispers to himself as he stumbles around a parking lot, feet rustling on the ground.
“Oh,” he proclaims as he turns and takes in the scene before him. “Oh, it’s not good.”
Bright white flames light up the horizon and melt into a red sky. Houses and trees are mere shadows. All that stands out are the purple and blue lights of police vehicles.
Emergency sirens wail in the background, mixing with the sound of his labored breaths as he makes his way toward the main road.
Red sparks dance across his path and fly in front of him. The wind whistles in his microphone. Embers crackle. Visibility decreases as he trudges forward, and the people walking in front of him become dark smudges.
Finally, yellow lights appear through the fog and an engine roars, announcing the arrival of a truck that will bring them to safety. He climbs in with others on the road, and the camera cuts off.