ENNIS — It was a race they had to win.
Two fire fighters in a bucket at the tip of a partially-extended ladder watched a river of flame pour out of a burning chemical plant in Waxahachie. Fire rolled down a sloping drive, towards their truck.
They knew it would take approximately 40 seconds to lower the ladder.
They didn't know how long it would take the fire to reach the truck, 40 feet below.
"It looks bad enough when you see it on video," said Ennis captain Jeff Aycock. "Like wow, that was close. But when we were there, it didn't seem like it. Everything was more or less slow motion."
Aycock stood a few yards from the ladder truck and watched the race unfold. He said the ladder motor has two speeds.
"We were on the high speed," Aycock said. "It was going as fast as it could go."
Flames also picked up speed as the ladder came down.
The first firefighter clamored out, then the second.
As flames closed in, an engineer still attempted to move the truck. Others used a water line to try to block the flaming liquid. But a wave of fire washed over the line, surrounded the truck, and forced firefighters to run for it.
The truck disappeared in a boiling, orange inferno just 30 seconds after firefighters climbed off the ladder.
"I'm just going to use the word controlled chaos," Aycock said. "It was time to go. Time to get out. But I didn't see anybody panic."
One of the men on the ladder is a 26-year veteran. He told us this was his closest call.
But Aycock said that reality didn't set in until everyone was accounted for and they stared at the burned out truck.
"After about five or six minutes of sitting over there, thinking about what happened, that was that little period like, 'Wow, that was close,'" Aycock said.
Firefighters rode back to their Ennis station in a police SWAT van, then rushed out to douse another fire. This one on a grocery store loading dock.
They were less than halfway through their 24-hour shift.