Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Firefighters from Texas Return a Favor; They Are Thankful for the Help They Received from a Georgia Crew Last Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Firefighters from Texas Return a Favor; They Are Thankful for the Help They Received from a Georgia Crew Last Year

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

KINGSLAND - A group photo of Georgia Forestry Commission firefighters hangs in Jan Amen's Texas Forest Service office as a reminder of when the two groups worked together a year ago.

The Texas fires - 29,141 of them - burned for 515 days in 2005 and 2006, burning more than 4 million acres, destroying 734 homes and killing 20 people. Things could have been much worse, if not for the Georgia Forestry Commission, Amen said.

So, when wildfires began burning in Southeast Georgia more than a month ago and a request for support was issued, Amen and fellow firefighters from her state were eager to come to the area to repay a debt.

"I wanted to come to Georgia," Amen said. "Georgia Forestry Commission helped us a lot last year."

The Texas team's two-week tour of duty ends today, but Amen and other firefighters from her state say they haven't come close to repaying Georgia firefighters for their help last year.

"I feel like I put a dent in the debt," she said.

Amen's sentiments were echoed by Les Rogers, assistant chief fire coordinator for the Texas team.

"We were excited we could come and help," he said. "We really felt obligated."

Rogers said it was like a family reunion when he came to Georgia two weeks ago. Firefighters from both states have worked together enough to know each other's abilities, which he said is crucial when it comes to battling wildfires.

"It's very important to trust the guys you work with," Rogers said. "The way the fuels burn around here is eye-opening. We don't see timber fires of this magnitude in the eastern United States."

One surprise, Rogers said, is the similarities between wildfires in Texas and the one currently burning from Waycross to North Florida.

"Sometimes, they burn like grass fires in North Texas," he said of the rapidly spreading fires.

Bill Woodyard, who retired in 2006 from the Georgia Forestry Commission's office in Rome after 34 years, spent 18 weeks battling wildfires in Texas a year ago. …

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