Public safety officials share body cam footage, update on apartment fire

Winters Fire Department estimated the damage from the to the four apartments involved was over $300,000. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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Police Chief John P. Miller and Interim Fire Chief Matt Schechla presented to the Winters City Council an update on the fire that occurred last week at the 116 E. Baker St. apartment complex.

The two provided additional information on how the fire started, what was happening at the scene when it did and explained some of the occurrences that happened alongside the fire. They also showed body camera footage from Officer Darion Cueto who first responded to the fire along with Officer Jesse Sanchez. 

Miller recapped the facts of the apartment fire that took place on Oct. 26 at 2:54 a.m. Officers Cueto and Sanchez were on the night shift at the time and were on the scene within two minutes.

Miller showed the Councilmembers footage from Cueto’s body cam during his response to the fire. The video begins with Cueto and Sanchez arriving at the fire and inquiring with bystanders if anyone is inside, and begin moving the bystanders away from the scene as explosions are seen and heard from in the apartment complex. The two then begin warning residents still in nearby apartments to exit the complex, before the Winters Fire Department arrived at the scene.

Miller clarified that the explosions heard during the video and which were reported by residents were “oxygen cylinders that are cooking off.”

Mayor Wade Cowan commented, “We have some darn good body cameras, don’t we?”

Schechla said that this kind of fire was, “by far…the worst case scenario you can ever get as a captain responding to a call,” as initial reports the fire department received warned of people trapped in the apartments. 

Schechla noted the response time of the  fire engine as being about four minutes, with “water on the fire within three minutes.”

He commended his team’s response as well as the “excellent mutual aid…from multiple jurisdictions,” who helped get the fire under control, but said the fire was still “one of the hardest fires in my career.” Three apartments were heavily in the fire with a fourth partially damaged, leaving four occupants displaced, and estimated the cost of the fire to be, “a little over $300,000,” based on calculations for damage per square foot. 

Schechla made note that the apartment complex did not have a sprinkler system, which he said, “probably would have held (the fire) to the room of origin,” though the complex did have working smoke detectors, which are what first alerted residents to the fire.

He also commended the work of one of the building occupants for alerting and helping several nearby residents as the fire began, calling her, “the hero in this.” Another resident who was above the fire, Schechla said, made the decision to shelter in place as his exit was cut off, but the fire department’s quick response was able to control the fire from spreading to that resident’s apartment before a fire crew was able to get him out.

Cowan asked again about the explosions, noting the public concern surrounding them, and Schechla reiterated Miller’s statement that oxygen tanks were the cause of the explosions. 

The City Council, as well as nearby resident Kate Laddish, expressed their gratitude to the Winters Fire Department and to the Winters Police Department for their quick response.

Bodycam footage
On Nov. 4, Winters PD posted the bodycam footage from the fire on its Facebook page at

The footage stops just as Winters Fire Department Engine 26 arrives on scene at the apartment.

The Winters PD post informs viewers the video depicts the explosions when oxygen tanks rupture and a visual of the resident who was trapped in his apartment on the second floor.

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