“Fire, I smell fire,” the first indication from the capsule that something was wrong. It is unclear whether the voice is Chaffee or White. “Fire in the cockpit.”
Within seconds the fire had broken from its point of origin, stretching in a wall of flames along the left side of the module. The flames rose vertically and spread across the cabin ceiling, scattering beads of molten nylon from straps and fastenings onto the crew.
The next communication is indistinct, the only words that can be made out with any certainty are “bad fire.” The transmission ends with a cry of pain.
Fifteen seconds after the first report of fire, TV cameras on the pad show flames filling the command module.
“Then you hear the pad people try to rescue the crew,” says Ehrenfried. “Then it starts to sink in, this is really bad and we didn’t know how bad until we heard on the communications loop: ‘We’ve lost them’.”