In the middle of the night on April 18, 2016, a massive wildfire was burning in a remote area of northeast Florida, and it was threatening homes and businesses.
The blaze, which grew into a monster, had destroyed at least two homes and damaged at least nine others, and was spreading into nearby communities, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.
As it turned out, there was a silver lining in the blaze.
A wildfire that had burned for months and caused the loss of hundreds of homes and more than $200 million in property damage in a single day was turning into a treasure trove.
By early afternoon, the fire was burning just over 100 acres, and the National Weather Service had estimated it was burning at least a mile and a half away from the site of the fire.
At least one firefighter and a firefighter-paramedic were fighting the blaze and had managed to get a helicopter to the scene.
But the fire spread rapidly and was quickly moving into other areas of the town, forcing rescuers to abandon their efforts to get people out.
“There’s no shelter in the middle, no shelter on the side,” said Dr. John Dominguez, a paramedic who was on scene.
“There’s nothing to protect you from the wind.”
By 4:30 a.m. local time, the blaze was burning close to 200 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
In the hours that followed, the firefighters battling the blaze were trapped in the midst of a wildfire that they were fighting.
After they arrived, they were trapped between two mountains, as a tree limb blocked their way and other firefighters had to use ladder trucks to get up into the flames.
Firefighters who were fighting an ongoing wildfire in Boca Raton, Fla., on April 19, 2016.
While some of the firefighters who were trapped on the mountain were able to get out, some were trapped inside.
Dominguez said there were about two dozen firefighters on the fire and some of them were battling the flames on a mountain and in the woods.
When he arrived, he noticed that a firefighter had lost his footing on a downed tree.
Then he saw two other firefighters trying to get off the mountain.
One of them, who was about a quarter of the way up the mountain, lost his life.
There was an enormous amount of smoke, he said, and there were lots of flames coming from behind him.
Domingue called 911, and as he was trying to pull out, he heard a large explosion and heard the sound of the engine of the helicopter, which was being used to get away from them.
Two of the helicopters were able escape into a tree.
“The fire was moving away from us,” he said.
“We got in a helicopter and we were able get out of the tree.
We were able go to a hospital.”
As Domingues and other emergency medical workers tried to get help to other firefighters trapped on a mountaintop, the wind was picking up and the flames were spreading.
By 7 a.ms., the fire had burned nearly 400 acres.
It took firefighters about two hours to make their way down to the firefighters trapped in a mountain, and they were struggling to get them out.
Dandinguez said that some of his colleagues were scared, as the firefighters were trying to make it back to the helicopter with only the air conditioning working.
During their journey down to rescue the firefighters, Domingos and his team had to fight a wildfire on a highway and a mountain that was still burning.
Another firefighting helicopter and rescue crews had been helping the firefighters on a road and a hillside that were battling an ongoing fire that was spreading in the area, and Domingoes team had been able to rescue those firefighters.
However, by 7:30, Dandingos and the team were exhausted and the weather had turned.
They were able, Daminguez said, to reach the firefighters with the air conditioner on, but they were in no condition to leave the mountain as the fire continued to grow.
With only the firefighters breathing, Daningos said he decided to leave to try to save his own life.
He decided to call 911, which had just arrived.
Dayinguez said he had no idea how many people had been trapped and what the situation was, and he said he was worried he might not be able to reach everyone who was inside the mountain that had been burning.
Dearinguez said his team was trying everything they could to try and get everyone out of danger.
About five minutes later, Daringos radioed that he and his crew had arrived and were going to attempt to get everyone to safety.
He told dispatchers that he was OK, but that he didn’t know how he was going to get his team out of there.
Daringuez told dispats