Fort Worth

More North Texas Fire Crews Deployed to Help California Wildfires

Wildfires have burned more than 3.1 million acres in California this year, fire officials say

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More reinforcements from North Texas are on the way to the west coast to help with the dire wildfire situation.

As of Friday, the fires have claimed the lives of more than 12 people in California, two in Oregon, as well as a child in Washington, and there is a growing list of people missing.

A Fort Worth Fire Department spokesperson confirmed they were planning to deploy eight firefighters and two trucks to California, where fire officials there said Friday wildfires have burned more than 3.1 million acres this year.

On Friday afternoon, Dallas Fire-Rescue deployed 13 wildland firefighters to assist with the wildfires for at least two weeks. Three firefighters from Flower Mound started heading towards California as well on Friday morning.

Brandon Barth, an emergency management officer with the Flower Mound Fire Department, said those who have been deployed are part of their wildland team and were “willing and ready” to go.

“Currently, we do not know what city or what fire they will be reporting to. That’s still pretty fluid at this point,” Barth said. “However, there is a couple-days’ drive time to get out there so really right now, they’re trying to get the resources mobilized, on the road, and headed west.”

Brody Eakin is one of the firefighters from Flower Mound. While Eakin said he’s battled fires throughout Texas, this is his first out-of-state service.

“It’s always the worst of the worst fires,” he said, referring to California wildfires. “There’s risk, but we’re trained to be able to mitigate that risk and to be aware of your surroundings and to know the potential of what could happen and to be able to recognize the hazards before they happen.”

Once on the ground, Eakin said their duties will include assisting the crews currently there and looking for any hot spots which may have the potential to spread more flames. According to Cal Fire, more than 14,800 firefighters remain on the line of 28 major wildfires burning across California as of Friday.

Quincy Blount with the McKinney Fire Department arrived with his crew on Aug. 23.

“We’re just getting off a 24-hour assignment from the Oak fire. We got to the Oak fire two days ago. Before that, we were assigned to the SCU complex fire,” Blount told NBC 5 Friday. “We made the joke, we haven’t seen the sun in two days. It’s not because of clouds or anything like that, it’s because of the smoke and the ash that’s in the air.”

Along with his firefighting duties, Blount also serves as a paramedic and an engine boss for the McKinney Fire Department. While sometimes physically and mentally taxing, Blount said their duties as firefighters are what they have been trained to do.

No more how far the deployment takes them, their families and communities are never far from their minds.

“The backbone to doing our job is our families back home and our coworkers picking up the slack for us,” Blount told NBC 5. “Our families didn’t sign up to come out here, but they’re having to pick up this slack back home for us.”

After three weeks away from his family. Blount said Friday he received orders to return home, where three more McKinney firefighters are preparing to leave, including Fire Captain Pieter Wasserman.

"It definitely makes you a little bit anxious but at the same time, excited to get out there and see how we can help," Wasserman said.

Altogether, Governor Abbott said nearly 200 firefighters from 56 departments statewide deployed Friday as part of a national effort to gain ground on fires that have caused unimaginable loss.

“We’re used to Texans helping Texans and we’ve also become used to helping other states as well so really, Americans helping Americans,” Barth said. “On this Patriot’s Day, that’s a great thing for us to be able to do.”

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