Transcript: Interview with Undersheriff Paula Presley

Paula Presley: First of all I think, day before yesterday when the fire moved so rapidly and crossed many ridges and started down into the housing area. I mean there was a sense even I mean I have been in law enforcement for a long time but there was a sense of panic of you know, how far is this going to go and it's a very helpless feeling. Because you know the firefighters are out there doing everything they can and they're doing a phenomenal job and we have you know, over 1000 personnel working this fire and yet you know you can't control the winds, you can't control the weather which certainly can aggravate the situation and did on that day. So, there is a sense of helplessness and panic as to when is it going to stop and how much devastation are we going to have? Certainly there is a lot of devastation with all of, all of these homes that have been destroyed and many, many of our citizens have lost everything and I mean the fires still not out. We're still actively working it and its going to be many, many days before we can say that its contained.

Alex Perez: I think people forget that it's hard to continue with the investigation when you're still trying to put the fire out right?

Paula Presley: That's it. The priority certainly is safety and getting the fire out. Then as the fire is contained then we will be able to assign personnel- investigators to determine the cause of the fire and move on from there.

Alex Perez: You know when you and other when you and other city officials this weekend saw that this fire was taking off do you think that people will imagine that it would get to this point where it is right now?

Paula Presley: No. I certainly didn't imagine it would get to this point. I mean, we knew certainly the risks associate with a fire in the national forest. Especially up in this area you can see, there's a lot of foliage. Heavily wooded, there's a lot of fuel up here. But for it to travel the distance that it traveled, again down into a very densely populated you know an urban area I don't think anybody anticipated that that was going to happen. We knew there was a risk of that but I don't think anyone anticipated that it was going to happen and happen as quickly as it did. I mean we were doing a press conference at 4:00 in the afternoon. That particular neighborhood had been partially evacuated, not completely. Certainly the folks that were working the fire determined that the entire neighborhood needed to be evacuated fairly quickly and within an hour to an hour and 15 minutes there were homes that were engulfed in flames so many of those people you know got out just in time. I mean there wasn't a lot of time to delay at that point in time. Because that fire was moving very quickly. We didn't anticipate that.

Alex Perez: That seems to be the most amazing part of this whole thing, how quickly it all moved.

Paula Presley: Yes. Yes, we you know people are watching it. The winds changed certainly, the weather was an aggravating factor that day but it was just, it seemed very, very quick that the fire could move that quickly and move into a neighborhood and essentially destroy it.

Alex Perez: Tuesday, when we had the 65 mph winds, what was going through your mind?

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