Austin, Round Rock sending crews to help fight California wildfires

Texas

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP/KXAN) — Nearly 100 firefighters from across Texas are heading to California to help battle raging wildfires.

“Never thought we would be sending resources out to California like this, but this is a unique situation out in California and those guys are tired. They need some help,” said Lt. Steve Gibbon, a firefighter with Austin Fire Department. 

The Texas A&M Forest Service on Tuesday announced personnel from more than two dozen fire departments are flying to California or taking part in a convoy with at least 25 fire engines. Texas firefighters are expected to report for duty Thursday. 

AFD is sending five firefighters along with fire departments from Abilene, College Station, Dallas, Galveston, Kyle, Lubbock, Oak Hill, Round Rock and Wichita Falls.

“Every department is pitching in a little bit,” said Gibbon.  

Twin fires in Northern California have scorched an area nearly the size of Los Angeles. 

“Everyday we see these fires pop up and I just keep thinking, ‘These guys that are out there right now [are] just getting stretched thin,'” said Gibbon. 

The deployment is an activation of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System even as the state is in its own wildfires season.

“We’ve had a pretty busy fire season starting in January, and it really hasn’t slacked off and some of these firefighters that are going have already deployed in the recent past to state fires,” said Palmer Buck, division chief for AFD.

Buck and Gibbon both agree finding a balance when it comes to resources is crucial. 

“As you guys know, we are not out of this drought here, yet, so we still have the wildfire risk [and] we can’t deplete our resources here,” said Gibbon. “Everybody is pitching in a little bit to make this a team effort and help out these guys out west.”

Texas A&M Forest Service director Tom Boggus says it’s “about neighbors helping neighbors.”

Gibbon recalls the time they needed help.

“Nice thing about it is back in 2011, during the Bastrop, Steiner Ranch and Houston fires all the other states where pitching in and sending resources to Texas, so it’s our turn to return the favor and send some resource to help out our neighbors,” said Gibbon.

These firefighters are hoping their efforts will make a difference. 

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