(CNN) — Protecting lives is their No. 1 priority. That’s why they keep on working.
Dozens of firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Northern California have lost their homes to the massive Camp Fire, officials say, and their numbers are expected to grow. But it has barely stopped the officers from answering the call of duty.
The Camp Fire is the most destructive in the state’s history, torching thousands of homes and obliterating the historic town of Paradise. By Monday morning, it had burned more than 113,000 acres and was about 25% contained.
“A high percentage of firefighters who live and work here lost their homes,” Tim Aboudara, a representative of the International Association of Firefighters, told CNN affiliate KCRA.
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“To see the number of them that were out there fighting the fire, knowing that their own homes were lost, it’s just — it’s unbelievable.”
At least 53 firefighters had lost their homes in Butte County as of Sunday night, Aboudara said.
The union set up a disaster operations center in the town of Chico to help members affected by the fire. Aboudara shared the story of one firefighter who came to the center on Sunday.
“He was just blocks away from his own home, engaged in a firefight, well aware that his own home was possibly on fire,” Aboudara said. “He had to stay on mission and keep doing his job, not knowing if his fiancee got out.”
Most members of the Paradise police force lost their houses, Mayor Jody Jones told KCRA. The mayor herself was left homeless — along with town council members and public works employees, she said.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office said more than 30 of its sheriff’s deputies reported for duty despite losing their homes, too, CNN affiliate KTXL reported.
Jarrod Hughes, a sergeant with the nearby Colusa Police Department, said he raced out of his Paradise home when the fire got closer, throwing his bags and animals in his truck and making sure his 14-year-old son got to safety.
But after doing that, Hughes told KTXL, “I get my uniform and my patrol car and head back up to help.”
“It’s my community. It’s where I grew up. It’s something I absolutely had to do,” he explained. “There was no question about it. It was get my family to safety so I can get in and get back up there and help everybody else.”
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