The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, Camp Fire caused at least 86 civilian fatalities, injured 12 civilians and 5 firefighters and wiped out thousands of homes and other structures.

Yet while many tragic stories came out of the recent California wildfires, the natural disaster also served to highlight the truly inspiring level of commitment and heroism that our nation's first responders are capable of achieving.

At the height of deployment, there were over 5,500 firefighters, along with 700 soldiers activated by the National Guard and 100 military police officers, many of whom went above and beyond the call of duty.

Many first responders help others despite own losses

Many of the first responders who worked to contain the blazes and assist those endangered or displaced by the disaster served in spite of the fact that they themselves had lost their homes in the fire.

According to CNN, four days after Camp Fire began, there were more than 50 firefighters working to contain the fire that had already destroyed their own homes. Similarly, more than 30 sheriff's deputies reported for duty even though they too had lost their homes, according to the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

Several tales of selflessness have emerged, including one of a first responder who engaged in a firefight that was just blocks away from his own home, unsure whether his house was itself burning, or whether his fiancée had gotten out.

Police Sergeant Jarrod Hughes at least had time to get his son and animals out of his home and to safety when the fire got closer, but immediately afterwards he got his uniform and patrol car and headed back to help.

"It's my community. It's where I grew up. It's something I absolutely had to do," Hughes explained to CNN affiliate KTXL. "There was no question about it. It was get my family to safety so I can get in and get back up there and help everybody else."

Leland Ratcliff, captain of the US Forest Service's Feather River Hotshot crew, had a similar rationale for choosing to evacuate neighbors when he still had keepsakes and other valuable items he could have been rescuing from his own home.

"We just do what we do because we like it. We like helping people," Ratcliff said when asked about the bravery of first responders. "The adrenaline rush and helping people. We like making a difference."

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.""The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

First responders still serving during the holidays

As one would expect, the first responders called to action during the California wildfires didn't take any time off for the holidays.

On the contrary, many were still serving on Thanksgiving, and in some cases, literally serving meals to those living in tents after Camp Fire destroyed their homes.

"To me this is almost like… I'd rather be here," firefighter Jim Irving told CBS. "You know it's helping other people and that's part of what Thanksgiving's about."

Irving had already spent weeks on the fire when he decided to provide meals to strangers instead of having dinner with his family.

On a holiday devoted to the concept of gratitude, the sacrifices of first responders like Irving did not go unappreciated by those who benefited.

"I thank every one of them as soon as I meet them," said wildfire victim Ron White, who lost his home and his father's home in Camp Fire. "I think that these are absolutely wonderful people. They deserve every consideration that they can get."