"I didn't realize it was that close. I knew it was close but not that close," Jason Perks said about a wildfire that nearly overtook him on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old Alva, OK man was cutting a fire line using a road grader, a piece of heavy machinery similar to a tractor. Instead, Perks found himself stuck on a sandy embankment with flames as high as 12 feet rapidly approaching.
"Well, I was trying to get the grader out the best I could because I really wanted to save the graders" Perks said, smiling and shaking his while watching the video of his dramatic rescue.
The video was captured on camera from inside the pick-up truck of News9 Storm Trackers Val and Amy Castor. The pair found themselves in the right place at the right time.
As the fire singed the tires of the grader, the video shows Perks leaping from the cab. He ran to the Castor's truck and dove into the backseat. The three backed away from the flames as they began to rise over the hood of the vehicle.
"I figured I would just leave the grader, try to run to safety. I was just going to run away I didn't know Val and Amy was there," Perks said while watching the video.
Roughly 15 minutes after Perks had been rescued, he was back inside the same machine to continue his work to contain the fire. Perks guessed the fire was advancing too quickly do any real damage to the grader, although several items in the truck were partially melted by the heat.
There wasn't much time for introductions , thank you’s in the Castor's truck, something Perks regretted; until Wednesday when the Castors stopped by for a real reunion.
"I'm glad to see you in one piece!" Val Castor said as he shook Perks' hand at the Perks home in Alva.
The Castors were continuing their coverage of the grass fires in northwestern Oklahoma and said they were happy to meet Jason, his wife and his three daughters.
"I've chased a lot of fires before and that's the probably to worst fire I've ever seen," Val Castor told Perks.
The rescue video has been viewed tens of thousands of times online and jettisoned the Oklahoma wildfires into the national news cycle. But for Perks the focus on his rescue is all wrong. He says the focus should be on the Castors and wants his thanks to be known.
"I'd just tell them thanks a million. They really saved me. Because I don't think, I don't know what would've happened if they weren't there," he said.