'It's happening more and more': Texas firefighters return to California to help battle wildfires

By Jacob Rascon - Anchor-Reporter

CHICO HILLS, Calif. - Many Texas firefighters that are in California said they've been deployed many times before. Some were in California just a few months ago.

“It’s happening more and more,” Webster Fire Department Chief Patrick Shipp said. “Especially in Texas with all the flooding and fires.”

Shipp helped initiate the TIFMAS program, or Texas Intrastate Mutual Aid System. He is the division supervisor over all 227 Texas Firefighters here.

“This is such a big group because they [California officials] asked for such a big group,” Shipp said. “They asked for 10 strike teams. We gave them 11.”

 

 

Galveston Fire sent six firefighters, including Engineer Bryan Lee, who says he’s been deployed a dozen times before, but only twice out of state.

“I feel like I’m lying people back. We were given a lot of help,” Lee said of past hurricanes.

Deployments will last two weeks, and will include varying assignments from structure protection to cleanup to waiting for flare-ups, which is what most Texas firefighters are doing on Wednesday.

Monday morning - 11/14/2018

This is the largest group Texas has ever sent to an out-of-state fire: 227 fighters from 47 departments. Many of them stayed in Chino Hills Tuesday night.

We left the hotel together at around 4 a.m. It took almost two hours to arrive at the command post in Camarillo. Only in California are the freeways packed like that before sunrise.

There are now 3,850 or so firefighters assigned to the Woolsey Fire, most from California. Texas guys will relieve some of them and will stand ready to attack any flare-ups Wednesday.

Red flag warnings mean high winds and ultra-low humidity. Wildfires thrive in those conditions. Thankfully, after Wednesday, the winds will die down and the humidity will pick back up.

 

 

Task Forces 3 and 4 are made up of firefighters from 10 Houston-area departments: Galveston, Fulshear, Baytown, New Waverly, Eastex, Porter, Montgomery County ESB No. 1, Forest Bend, Webster and Needham. 

 

 

Webster Fire Chief Patrick Shipp is in charge of the entire Texas contingent. Fulshear Batallion Chief Terry Jones leads Task Force 4 and Webster Capt. Jason Meyers leads Taskforce 3.

 

 

It’s been a slow morning so far - three hours “checking in” and counting. Then breakfast at some point, followed by assignments.

All 11 Texas task forces are expected to stay together, Shipp said. Why sign up to do this? “It is a brotherhood,” many said. Meyers’ sweatshirt reads: “Don’t mess with Texas, or California.”

 

 

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