Weatherford Fire Department Lt. Todd Helm, standing alongside Lt. Burt McFadden, discussed their deployment to battle the California wildfires in August.
“On Aug. 22 we were deployed as part of Strike Team 119 to the task force to assist with over 800 wildfires that were burning in California. These fires ended up burning into about 28 mega-fires that ended up consuming a large majority of California,” Helm said. “Upon our arrival, we were assigned to the SCU complex, which was the Santa Clarita unit. At the time we arrived, it was the second-largest wildfire in California history. It ended up finishing up at just under 400,000 acres.
“Once that fire was contained after about two weeks, we were moved off that fire and were sent up north to the August complex, which is probably the one you’ve heard about. That fire quickly surpassed all other records and is now just a hair over one million acres. It’s still currently burning with roughly about 70% containment on that fire.”
Helm said for reference, the August Complex fire was twice the size of Parker County, but is still actively burning.
“These large scale deployments are a great opportunity for us to get out and train with these guys that handle these situations daily. A 50,000 to 60,000-acre fires are just a walk in the park to them so for us to be able to experience and learn from these experiences, bring them back here to not only help the citizens of Weatherford but Parker County and all other surrounding counties and cities in the state,” Helm said. “It’s a different ballgame out there but we get to experience different fuel types, different terrain, working on the coast, totally different weather environment, a lot of different stuff that you learn to watch out for that we can bring back here and use.”
The discussion was held during Tuesday night’s Weatherford city council meeting.
“On behalf of the council, the staff and the citizens of Weatherford we know that your heroes, the men and women of the Weatherford Fire Department,” Weatherford Mayor Paul Paschall said. “We know now that the citizens of California know the same thing about you. Thank you for your services here and abroad and we feel really blessed to have you in our community.”
The deployments are at zero cost to the city, Helm said.
“The knowledge that we gained from this is just invaluable to be able to use and this is all done at pretty much a zero cost to the city. Yes there are some upfront costs but all that, once the paperwork is done, is reimbursed at 100% through [a] program that we’re members of,” Helm said. “Also we’re using our own apparatus and it’s actually generating revenue that we can bring back to the city and further our program and further help the citizens.”