SAN ANGELO, Texas — Three members of the San Angelo Fire Department spent their first day on the job helping California firefighters on one of the state’s biggest wildfires.
“They called to see if we had anyone available to assist. We had one Type 6 engine to send, with 3 people,” said San Angelo Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations, Johnny Fisher.
On Monday, San Angelo firefighters Jade Hughes, Sontos Chavez and Travis Lee began their 14-day deployment to assist with the wildfires that have been devastating the state of California over the last several weeks.
The crew left San Angelo on Friday and arrived to California on Saturday.
“They left out Friday, drove up from Amarillo and met the team from Wichita Falls, Amarillo and Border, and headed out Friday evening,” explained Fisher.
Lee has been a firefighter for the last 8 years, Chavez is also the Dove Creek fire chief and Hughes has worked for the Texas A&M Forest Service and will be in charge of the crew of three who will be working on the massive Creek Fire burning northeast of Fresno, California.
“They’re at the south branch, just got there today and said there was a lot of fire and rough terrain. There’s been about 200,000 acres burned at this time and it’s 10% contained,” added Fisher.
The men will be working 24-hour shifts on and off for the next 14 days, though their stay could be extended another week.
“I think they’re going to learn a wealth of knowledge from this deployment. Around here we have a lot of flat land and small trees. That’s a whole different terrain that they’re on, “continued Fisher, “What they learn there with the different entities and departments and then bring back here will be great for our department as a group.”
This isn’t the first time a fire crew from San Angelo has deployed to help fight across the country. SAFD has been a part of the TIFMAS (Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System) program for the last three years. The department sent a crew to battle the Woolsey fire in California in 2018.
“It does feel good to help. We love our jobs and helping others. It’s a good feeling to be a part of this and be able to help out,” said Fisher, “Hopefully during their deployment they get this wrapped up and be done with it.”