A Temple Fire & Rescue firefighter is in California to help fight the raging wildfires that have consumed millions of acres.
Capt. Dustin McGraw left Friday for his 21-day deployment, department spokesman Santos Soto III said Tuesday.
Temple recently became part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, a program for which firefighters had to train, become accredited and approved. They joined fire departments from other locations such as Killeen, Copperas Cove, Georgetown and Round Rock.
McGraw’s assistance in California is the second deployment for Temple Fire & Rescue, Soto said.
“In the first deployment, three firefighters went to the coast to help with Hurricane Laura,” he said.
More firefighters may go to California when McGraw returns.
McGraw will be in California for at least 21 days — but that could be extended for a few days longer, Battalion Chief Matthew Perrine said.
McGraw was hired Dec. 30, 2009, and was last promoted Aug. 24, 2018, to captain, Soto said.
“I recently learned that his father also worked for the U.S. Forest Service many years ago — doing wildland firefighting,” Soto said.
Perrine explained what it took to become accredited by TIFMAS.
The process began more than two years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that Temple Fire & Rescue joined. It was late spring to early summer before firefighters were able to travel and become part of the solution, Perrine said.
The department needed special equipment and training for those who are approved by TIFMAS because fighting a wildland fire in other places can be very different. Different techniques, hand tools and personal protection equipment are required, according to Perrine.
At least 74 engines and 56 states have been deployed in the program directed by the Texas A&M Forestry Service.
The program allows local resources to be sent and used at the state level, and the employees go from local to state employees, Perrine said. The state takes the burden off the city by renting the apparatus and paying the personnel sent to locations.
“Firemen like to be part of the solution,” Perrine said. “To watch a situation on TV and to not be able to go is disappointing. Now, instead of sitting on the sidelines, firefighters can go, participate and be part of the solution — whatever that is.”