As Cocos Fire winds down, firefighters talk about memorable moments

Ups and downs for fire crews on the front lines

SAN DIEGO - As the Cocos Fire winds down, firefighters shared their memorable moments from the front lines with 10News.

Capt. Steve Michaels of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was exhausted by day six of the fire.

"What about sleep?" Michaels asked. "We haven't had much sleep."

Some worked days on end, only napping when and where they could.

"We sleep on the ground and in our rigs," said Michaels. "Some people sleep on the hosebeds, some people sleep right in the seat."

After a little sleep and a lot of coffee at base camp at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, Michaels and his buddy Lance Takata had some time to talk about what happened on the front lines. 

"We've had a lot of moments," Takata said. "There are a lot of ups and downs."

After 30 years on the job, he will remember the family that flagged them down.

"They asked us if we could stop and she wanted to give us a hug," said Takata. "I said, 'Ma'am, we're sweaty, we're stinky and whatnot, we appreciate it.' She said, 'No, I have to give you a hug.'"

Their home was still standing.

"We were up on the Phoenix Way the second day the fire ran up a draw," Michaels said. "We got our hoselines in place, and we saved a block along with LA City."

They saved at least 10 homes just on that one block.

"There's that one house that we couldn't save, and that's … gut-wrenching," Michaels said.

He said they tried to save it. They were in the burning home when they got word to pull out.

"We want to save everything, but we can't," he explained.

Michaels was pretty proud of saving a shed. 

"And the goats and the potbelly pig and one rabbit," he added.

He thinks goats are pretty cool because they are firefighters in their own right.

"They chew down the grass, keep the house safe," Michaels said.

For Takata, it was that family and what happened after they stopped the rig to get that hug.

"As she's hugging us, there's just a fountain of tears coming down her face," he explained. "[Her] husband's a big gruff-looking dude, and he's got tears rolling down his eyes."

Then, he saw two small children in the back of the car.

"A little kid pokes his head out and said, 'Is there any way we can repay you?' and I said, 'Buddy, I think you just did,'" said Takata.

He was so moved, he had to walk away to keep from crying.

The gratitude seemed to be growing. There was one handwritten letter from a child that said, "Thank you for saving San Diego's life."

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