(CNN) — The Christian church contractor who refused to evacuate Fort Worth’s Cox Convention Center after Texas wildfires last summer has spoken out about his decision.
Speaking with Tulsa radio station WIBW on Friday, Ray Griffin defended his decision to stay, despite a building manager’s exhortation that he do so.
“There’s this last exodus drive. I said, ‘Stop, I’m leaving,’ ” said Griffin, who is recovering from heat stroke at home. “And he said, ‘Do you want to drive down there?’ and I said, ‘If I had a choice of something else to do in my life, I’d probably just stay home and watch TV or whatever. But that wouldn’t be worth the risk to everybody else.’
“There were thousands of people down there evacuating and not one person on the boat ran back,” he continued. “Of course, you would have regretted it — it’s the wrong thing to do. I regret it today — for the way it had to be.”
Earlier in the interview, he said many people were following his example and refusing to evacuate.
A month after the wildfires last summer, President Donald Trump granted a reprieve from the mandatory evacuation to residents who live in 47 counties in Texas and Oklahoma, including many in the city of Fort Worth.
Griffin’s gaffes didn’t help his case. While standing on the Cox Convention Center loading dock in Fair Park, a reporter asked him if he felt guilty about his defiance.
“I actually feel sad,” he said, as boos rang out in the audience. “I’m not going to lie, I feel bad.”
Afterwards, he told CNN that he received threats, and felt compelled to speak out.
“It was a very personal issue for me to see the state of devastation — the burnt earth, the burning people,” he said. “So, no, it wasn’t just about the city of Fort Worth, it was about the whole state of Texas. I don’t think they understood what I was talking about and they didn’t understand the fear of losing my family because I believe we shouldn’t be putting ourselves and our families at risk when others are.”
Asked whether he regretted his comments to the crowd, Griffin said he hopes that his words will inform other people.
“I just want other people to know that we’re not all selfish and evil, and we have a human condition called humanity,” he said. “And we need to work together for the greater good.”
No further action was taken against Griffin or the Trinity Baptist Church for the incident, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The city also has passed a resolution commending Griffin for his actions.