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The town of Paradise, California has basically been destroyed by the wildfire known as Camp Fire. A man named Greg Woodcox escaped the fire that has killed dozens—and he’s got the video footage to prove it. But people have mixed feelings about him filming the charred remains of some friends that had died just minutes before.
Woodcox reportedly sent the cell phone footage to his nephew Matthew Strausbaugh—who then posted it to YouTube last Friday and where it has, as of this writing, received more than 470,000 views.
At least one resident criticized Woodcox for taking the video in the first place.
“That was so insensitive,” a woman named Tamara Houston told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You don’t need to show people’s remains in the middle of such a horrible tragedy.”
On YouTube, Strausbaugh wrote, “My Uncle sent me this cell phone footage of the aftermath from the firestorm. He tried to save his friends but the fire over took their position. This footage was shot on Edge Wood off Pearson Road in Paradise, California.”
In the 3-minute, 32-second age-restricted video—which the Daily Dot has decided not to embed—you can see the remains of burnt-out vehicles, and it shows the skeletons of those who had burned to death. Woodcox then gets into a car and films himself driving through the destroyed landscape.
In the video, he said, “Nobody made it. These people all got burned out. I was right down below them here. My friend, you can see he’s dead, and his mother.”
Near the flames, before he began shooting the video, Woodcox said he ran for his life after the fire took five lives, including one of Woodcox’s good friends and his friend’s mother. Woodcox told the newspaper he escaped the fire by following a desperately fleeing fox down a steep hill and into a stream, where he apparently waited for 45 minutes for the flames to subside.
After the flames passed, he returned to his car, which still was running and which held his two surviving dogs.
“I can’t believe my truck and my dogs made it,” he said. “I can’t wrap my brain around it.”
That’s when he began filming the aftermath.
A huge majority of commenters on the video, though, supported Woodcox for filming it and Strausbaugh for posting it.
“Been a wildland firefighter for 14 years and this is what the public needs to see,” one commenter wrote. “Too many think that evacuation notices and alerts are ‘over the top’ or ‘not mandatory’ and would rather stay. We have started asking for people who decide to stay, to give us a copy of their dental records, or if they would be willing to make a dental impression to help us identify [their] body. They usually get the hint but some still refuse to leave.”
Wrote another, “This man just witness[ed] some of the most horrible shit anyone would ever have to live through and had the composure to record this for the world to see. I admire his courage through this.”
Strausbaugh said he thought about the consequences of releasing the video beforehand and said he had even offered to release it to local media.
“It shows some horrific things, but on the other hand, if one person sees that video and that saves one person, then their deaths are not in vain,” Strausbaugh told the newspaper.
H/T Daily Mail
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.