- Posted June 21, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Wildfires blazing near you
The Trabing Fire in Watsonville, California.
Trabing Fire: Watsonville, California. June 20th.
Location: The inland side of Highway 1, near the Buena Vista exit, on the hottest day this year in Santa Cruz County.
Before the fire department had even arrived and with the fire spreading quickly all around him, freelance photographer Alekz Londos risked his life to document the disaster and help anyone as best he could. Armed with only a cell phone and digital camera Alekz walked into the blaze.
"This fire spread fast! Dry conditions, and high winds were a contributing factor...very scary! I went house after house, through thick smoke and ash, trying to warn residents of the fire," he said.
People and pets were evacuated to nearby Aptos High School, where volunteers with trucks and trailers gathered to help families rescue their horses, llamas, and other livestock. Alekz, among other good Samaritans, helped families pack up for the evacuation. Some concerned and daring locals decided to stay and help South County residents fight the fire themselves. With garden hoses and buckets they bravely doused their houses and the surrounding land hoping to deter the blaze. In an attempt to save unreachable pets and livestock, rescuers released the animals into the nearby woods, giving them a better chance of escape.
One resident, Bob Nibel, stood shirtless in his front yard with a fire extinguisher and garden hose attempting to protect his house. He was lucky, but not everyone who stayed and fought was victorious.
With firefighters arriving on the scene, Alekz joined the evacuees and continued to help move belongings to safer locations. Dealing with stand-still traffic and the inability to use the freeway made this unusually difficult.
"When I met back up with my friend Francesco, I noticed that the bottoms of my shoes had melted and were still really hot. I got out my video camera and filmed what you see here before quickly leaving the scene. The fire had consumed most of the block that I had been on and swept across the street where I had just been parked." Londos stated.
Firefighters were forced to turn around and find a different route in order to battle the still expanding fire. At this point the power went out, shutting down all ground and well-water pumps, drastically impeding residents' efforts to stand their ground.
After the fire was under control I spoke with an officer who assisted in the rescue effort. He stated that himself and other officers barely escaped from harm and he is very troubled by how many animals lost their lives in the fire.
The fire was later determined it had been started from a vehicle malfunctioning.
"There is no arson on the Trabing Fire and there won't ever be arson on the Trabing Fire," Sheriff's Office Lt. Phil Wowak said.
Alekz Londos lives in Santa Cruz, California. He an active member of the community's night life and an avid photographer and entrepreneur.
Written By Jesse Williams.