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He was among the first to California’s deadly boat fire. He found a ‘horrific’ scene

Click to play video: 'Flowers laid for victims of fatal California boat fire'
Flowers laid for victims of fatal California boat fire
WATCH ABOVE: Flowers laid for victims of fatal California boat fire – Sep 6, 2019

Capt. Paul Amaral was among the first people to answer a distress call about a diving boat that caught fire near Santa Cruz Island — a fire that would claim 34 lives and force the rescue of five crew members who were sleeping on its top deck.

He described arriving to a “horrific” scene in an interview with Global News Radio’s ON Point with Alex Pierson on Friday.

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Amaral works with TowboatUS Ventura, a private company that offers tow services on the water.

The company responds to emergencies on a voluntary basis — so it’s not exactly a first responder in the traditional sense, but they’re “first on the scene” with certain incidents.

Amaral had seen vessels that were sinking or had gone aground.

WATCH: Sept. 3 — Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat

Click to play video: 'Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat'
Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat

But he never saw anything like the fire aboard the Conception, a 75-foot vessel that went up in flames on Sept. 2.

“This was by far bigger than anything I’ve seen or thought I would see,” Amaral told Pierson.

He arrived to a fire that was “out of control, it was beyond the point of anybody being able to do anything to mitigate the loss,” he recounted.

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READ MORE: 34 dead after diving boat catches fire in California — U.S. Coast Guard

Amaral wouldn’t speculate on what caused the fire, but he did note that the Conception was carrying diesel fuel on board.

“When combustible materials are on a boat and they ignite, once they get out of control, it’s a really, really bad thing,” he said.

At a moment like that one, responders are focused on putting out the fire — adrenaline is pulsing through them and they’re thinking of little else, Amaral added.

WATCH: Sept. 3 — Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat

Click to play video: 'Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat'
Audio reveals final moments aboard doomed California dive boat

As time passes, however, the magnitude of the situation sets in a person’s mind — the loss of life, the hurt.

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“It starts to sink in after a while, just how it’s going to affect everybody, the families of the ones lost,” Amaral said.

“All the community is suffering.”

READ MORE: California diving boat investigators say crew related ‘harrowing story’ of deadly fire

Massive as the fire was, authorities believe it was smoke, not flames, that killed the people on board.

There were 34 people sleeping in a bunkroom below deck when the fire began, and it didn’t take long before the inferno took over the boat.

The victims likely inhaled toxic smoke and died in their sleep, said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

Local, state and federal agencies are still investigating.

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