Gulfport Fire Fighters Return From Fighting California Wildfires - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport Fire Fighters Return From Fighting California Wildfires

"I think it's much more devastating to see it in person than to see it on the news," says Gulfport Battalion Chief Mark Ballman.

Words that volunteers used to describe Hurricane Katrina's devastation, Ballman now uses to describe what he and five other firefighters witnessed as volunteers battling the California wildfires.  

"There was a lot of gas leaks, a lot of power lines down," says Ballman. "You would have two or three houses burnt and then you would have a group that weren't touched. It was really strange."  

"We were willing to do anything," says Lt. Allen Agent. "If it was washing dishes or fighting fire. We didn't care."

Lt. Agent was one of the California volunteers from Gulfport to serve on the damage assessment teams that scoured charred neighborhoods in the San Bernardino Mountains.

"You would have a house that wouldn't even have any smut on it from the fire and you'd have five houses around it totally burnt to the ground," says Agent. "So it was random how it went through there and picked, like a tornado."

Having lost his own home to Hurricane Katrina, Agent knows what it means to disaster survivors when help arrives.  

"Nobody wants to ask for help, but they appreciate it when it comes."

Agent and the other volunteers say they're glad they were able to pay back just a little of what San Bernardino firefighters did for them more than two years ago.   

"Actually, some of the first supplies we got, period, came from San Bernardino County, even before the feds got any equipment to us," says Ballman. "I'm just glad we got to return the favor."

by Don Culpepper

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