Temple Firefighter assists with California fires

TIFMAS_McGraw3For Station #2 B Shift Captain Dustin McGraw with Temple Fire & Rescue, there was no hesitation when he was asked to travel to California to help fight the fires ravaging the West Coast.

“I was really excited to be able to be a part and go out and help,” McGraw, a native of Northern California, said. “We anticipated there would be some help needed, so I was expecting it and said yes right away.”

In his first wildland support deployment as part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), McGraw was joined with a strike
team to assist with battling the west zone of the August Complex fire in Humboldt County, currently at nearly 1 million acres and 47 percent contained. His team worked mostly on the perimeter of the fire, filling in for cleanup teams and providing relief as needed. Their support freed up California fire resources, allowing them to fight the fire closer to the middle and front.

“It was very hard work,” McGraw, 38, said. “We worked long hours, getting up at 4:30 a.m., getting out to the fires and doing whatever we needed. It takes a lot of perseverance to do that. You have to be in shape, and it can be grueling.”

TIFMAS_McGraw1TIFMAS is a statewide program in which local departments in Texas aid other departments on a regional or statewide level on large incidents or natural disasters. TIFMAS, which is maintained by the Texas A&M Forest Service, also has agreements with other states to provide interstate aid. Texas and California formulated the agreement and TIFMAS organizes and coordinates the required resources.

The program aids in mobilization in two areas: All-Hazard/Structural and Wildland. The two are interdependent and firefighters can be qualified in one or both areas. Temple Fire currently has 28 firefighters certified and eligible for TIFMAS aid. McGraw who is certified in both All-Hazard/Structural and Wildland, was selected from a rotating list of eligible firefighters in the department.

“This was the first wildland deployment for Temple Fire & Rescue, so it was a proud moment for the department that we were qualified and selected to go out,” McGraw said. 

Temple Fire Rescue has worked hard to qualify for the opportunities that the TIFMAS program offers, Temple Fire & Rescue Chief Mitch Randles said.

“Our personnel have attended dozens of additional of hours education and training to earn the required qualifications for deployment,” he said. “As Chief, I am very proud of our personnel’s commitment and efforts, and I deeply appreciate the City’s support of our Department and this program.” 

And while the recognition that came for the department was enough, getting to deploy and provide aid to his home state had another significance to it for McGraw.

“My father was a wildland firefighter in California, and this deployment allowed me to see and experience the kind of work he did when he was younger,” McGraw said. “I got to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”

For McGraw, the involvement in TIFMAS not only has a personal connection, but also points toward the bigger mission of Temple Fire & Rescue. From the experience and training the firefighters receive, to the interaction with other departments and firefighters across the state.

“TIFMAS enables us to interact with agencies from across the state and nation and bring back new ideas to improve how we provide service to our own community,” McGraw said. “I’m really proud about that.”

McGraw returned home Tuesday and will spend a few days visiting loved ones and spending time with his girlfriend, Chrissy, who is a Corporal with the Temple Police Department. Temple Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Matthew Perrine rotated out to replace McGraw.