Mississippi is now an active part of the effort to bring devastating fires in Southern California under control. State forest firefighter Jody Jones left Monday for San Bernardino. More than 100 other Mississippi firefighters may not be far behind Jones. The National Forest Service has placed them on alert.
The gear is packed, the equipment is ready and so is firefighter Rebecca Ladner. In the bag are a helmet, flame retardant clothing, and a fire shelter, which is a firefighter's only hope when there's no chance of escape.
"It's very scary," said Ladner." I've been fighting fires for about 15 years and I've never been in a situation where I had to use it and I hope I never do."
Ladner is among 100 Mississippi firefighters who, any day now, could be sent to battle the wildfires engulfing huge sections of Southern California.
"It's pretty unreal to see fire behavior like that and I can't imagine what those people living in those homes out there are going through," said Ladner.
Information on the fire damage comes in every day to the Interagency Coordination Center in Wiggins. For firefighter Wayne Stone, these are more than just numbers on a page. He remembers watching fire destroy hundreds of homes in Colorado and watching the people's pain afterwards.
"Sometimes they would come up to you and say 'You know I live down the road a couple of blocks in a white house on the left and could you tell me if it's still standing or not'", said Stone. "That almost brings tears to your eyes when people have to go through that. Then it's really bad when you have to tell them 'No, I'm sorry that house didn't make it.'"
Forest Service officials say most of the reinforcement firefighters working in California now are from neighboring states. As the fires continue to burn the chances of more Mississippi firefighters being activated increases. The firefighters who go to California could be away as long as three weeks.