‘It’s just an overall good experience to help’: Virginia teams help Texas first responders with wildfires

Teams from the Virginia Department of Forestry are lending a helping hand where needed
Close to 1,000 volunteers from 40 states are helping first responders in Texas respond to wildfires.
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:51 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - At the beginning of July, Jack Colyer headed down to Texas to help first responders battle the flames of their wildfires.

“It’s just an overall good experience to help another state,” said Colyer, a Virginia Department of Forestry forest technician.

Colyer was one of 16 VDOF personnel who traveled down to Texas and offered assistance spanning outside state lines.

“They’ve had a record number of fires down there,” Colyer said. “We would stage at their Fredericksburg, Texas office and then when they need us, we would get a call from them, and we’d go out with them to fight a fire.”

Colyer said this plan is part of a mutual aid effort to help first responders in Texas battle blazes where they’re needed.

On July 25, the Virginia Department of Forestry said a crew, who had recently returned from a deployment, assisted with a large fire near Uvalde. They also added a second VDOF crew working to suppress a 2,000-acre blaze near Huntsville.

Colyer adds teams are being swapped out after working on their ground assignments for two weeks.

We’re down there for 14 days on assignment, and then we drive back another two days and traded in with another group of firefighters,” Colyer said.

In a recent Facebook post, Texas A&M Forest Service said over 6,900 wildfires have burned down more than 598,000 acres in Texas this year. With the increase in wildfire activity comes an increase in resources.

The agency reports that 961 wildland firefighters from 40 states support wildfire suppression efforts.

“It was very hot. I mean, it was about 105 to 110 degrees just about every day,” Colyer said. “You have to take breaks pretty often from firefighting to rehydrate. You couldn’t drink enough water.”

One part-time volunteer firefighter with Powhatan County Fire and Rescue is also on the ground offering a helping hand.

Kenny Aliceburg brings his decades of firefighter experience in the Richmond area to Texas to help with large brush and vegetation fires.

Since his original assignment earlier this month, Colyer has returned. In the next couple of weeks, he plans to return to Texas and continue his efforts on the ground.

“It’s interesting and a good learning experience to be able to help another state in need with all these fires,” said Colyer.

Powhatan County Fire and Rescue told NBC12 Aliceburg plans to return home this week.

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