LUBBOCK, Texas — The first group of Lubbock firefighters returned from battling the wildfires in California last week. In a news conference on Wednesday, they spoke about their experience. The group includes Firefighter Jason Jaquess, Firefighter Eric Fransen, Lieutenant Michael Eberle and Battalion Chief Lee Jones.
“They deployed on August 22, they drove 30 hours across the country to arrive at a base camp in Pleasanton, California, they arrived on the 23rd and began work on the 24th,” said Lt. Phillip Grandon.
During that time, firefighters helped battle three massive fires that spread across more than five counties. However, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Lubbock Fire and Rescue sent another crew of four firefighters after the first group and said that they plan to send a third crew once that group returns.
It’s not often that firefighters are asked to assist out of state, but when they got the news that California needed help. They didn’t give it a second thought.
“We got, what, maybe less than 24-hour notice. And we’re out the door,” said Firefighter Jason Jaquess. “It’s pretty quick, pretty quick. I mean, so it was kind of, ‘Hey, can you go to California? Yes, you can? All right, we’re leaving tomorrow morning.'”
Despite working during the middle of a pandemic in new territory, they said that their training prepared them well for the challenges they faced. In addition to California firefighters, there were several departments from out of state working together to combat the flames.
“Anytime that you get out of state and in a different environment, it’s, you know, not scary, because we’ve prepped for it, you have good briefings with the team,” said Battalion Chief Lee Jones. “But there’s being in the different environment that we don’t have in this part of the world is, there’s an adjustment in it. I’m not gonna say it’s scary, but it keeps you up and puts you a little bit more on edge.”
Although the firefighters said battling the flames was tiring, they said that their families waiting on them back home are the real heroes.
“It’s a big sacrifice that our family’s taken as well,” said Jaquess. “Sometimes it was just enough time to send a message, hey, I’m thinking about you, and miss you guys. And I’ll talk to you when I can. But when you when I came home that was a pretty great experience with my kids to get that big hug from my daughter.”