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Three New Waverly Firefighters patrolling the hills around Malibu for hotspots and flare-ups. (NWFD Phhoto)

New Waverly firefighters arrive in California, join in battle against deadly wild fires

Local Firefighters play key role in mop-up, containment

At least 71 have died in wind stoked wildfires, with over 1,000 unaccounted for, as crews from Texas work the fire lines in Malibu.

Monday, Nov. 12, four New Waverly firefighters, along with firefighters from other Texas departments, deployed to fire areas. Most of the Texas contingent has been assigned to the Woolsey fire near Los Angeles, including the New Waverly crew. The local crew took an engine to help in the effort.

According to Jimmy Williams of the NWFD, the department has been training and deploying for several years under the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System or TIFMAS. State emergency officials, including the Texas A&M Forest Service, initially devised the system as a means of responding to disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes within the state of Texas. The program has been so successful that it is now being utilized to deploy specialized personnel and equipment across the country.

New Waverly FFs Steven Billnoske and Jason Adams moving hose during mop up operations at the Woolsey fire, in California. (NWFD Photo)

The four New Waverly Firefighters, Jason Adams, Steven Billnoske, Chance Gardner, and Byron Robinson, have undergone training and evaluation under standards set forth by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. The NWCG consists of state and federal wildland firefighting agencies and promulgates national training curriculums that insures wildland fire crews from across the country can work together safely and efficiently.

The New Waverly firefighters and their Engine have been assigned to an area near Thousand Oaks, California and have been performing mop-up and patrol operations all week, extinguishing smoldering fires and working to prevent flare ups. While several hundred homes have been destroyed by the Woolsey fire, an estimated 57,000 structures are still at risk along its massive 100,000 acre perimeter.

Firefighters have steadily gained ground this week after the arrival of out of state reinforcements and currently the Woolsey fire is estimated to be 82% contained. New Waverly Firefighters were initially assigned to work in 24 hour shifts but are now working12 hour shifts wrapping up operations near Malibu. At this point, it is uncertain if they will be deployed to other parts of the state or how long they may remain in California.

The department will be reimbursed expenses and the work adds significantly to the local skill level for when it is needed at home.

About Rich Heiland

Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at freepresstx@gmail.com or 936-293-0293.

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