Lending a helping hand

FMFD firefighters travel to California to fight wildfires

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Lending a helping hand

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When they arrived at the Woolsey wildfire, the Flower Mound Fire Department firefighters were greeted by aggressive flames and piles of rubble. The smell of smoke filled the air as the fire destroyed everything in its path, demolishing buildings, light poles and guard rails.

The firefighters worked tirelessly from Nov. 12 to Nov. 21 to contain the flames, which killed two people in the time it tore through the rocky California terrain. Lewisville Fire Captain Brandon Woodward worked with the FMFD firefighters in California.

“You would see a wall of flame that’s probably 50 feet high, like a big tidal wave, just moving very fast across the hills. It’s scary and makes you very careful about what you do,” Woodward said.

California reached out to Texas for help containing the disaster as a part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, or TIFMAS. FMFD sent five personnel: Captain Curt Odneal, Captain Aaron Moore, Engineer Ben Jackson, Firefighter Dalton Blum and Firefighter Mark Kubena.

The department also saw the trip as a chance to help Californians, who had helped Texans in the past. The firefighters worked to reinforce containment lines and extinguish the hot spots, which are particularly active parts of a fire.

According to FMFD Spokesperson Brandon Barth, the responders were excited for the trip.

“When they were finally given the go ahead they were ready to go and get there as quickly as they could to be of aid,” Barth said.

Before the fire, the mountains of California were filled with brush, but the fire destroyed all the vegetation in its path. According to Barth, the Flower Mound firefighters described the terrain as a moonscape.

“When we got there, this fire had burned through this mountainous area with all these homes, so all this brush would normally be there and you’d see this green hillside, is just smooth and black because it’s burned,” Woodward said. “It’s almost a little surreal sometimes to see that kind of thing.”

The firefighters’ typical day in California started early when they went to a daily meeting. After, they went out to the fire and worked all day to contain it before going to bed late at night to repeat the process the next day.

“Sometimes it can get a little mundane, but other times it’s very exciting. The work is dirty and difficult because you have to climb hills,” Woodward said.

Woodward said the citizens of California were very grateful for the assistance and made donations to the firefighters.
“They were very engaged and concerned about our welfare as firefighters,” said Woodward.

Some citizens of California lost everything they owned except for what they could put in their cars, which was tough for the firefighters to see according to Woodward.

“It makes me feel sad and makes me think of myself, my family, the things we have and how difficult that would be,” Woodward said.

Although they were able to learn from the experiences, especially leadership skills for any future disasters, the firefighters said they were mainly glad to be of assistance to those in need.

“Doing this job makes me feel very good,” Woodward said. “I think most firefighters would agree that the sense of accomplishment that we get from this is being able to help others when they really need help.”

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