Forest Fire Management Victoria’s (FFMVic) Pat McCarthy has returned home safely to Heathcote after being deployed to the United States for two weeks to help fight the devastating fires in Northern California.

Mr McCarthy said “It was an incredible experience and I was blown away by the whole process.

“We arrived in Sacramento, the capital of California, on Wednesday 18 October and received a briefing before the Victorian firefighters were immediately sent to Santa Rosa to assist with the Central Santa Rosa/Napa Valley fire,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We were sent right into the thick of things. The fire had been going for at least two weeks and there were already 10,700 firefighters tackling the fire when we arrived.

“There were more than 1,000 tankers on this one fire and 486 different agencies involved in all of the California fires put together.

“The National Guard handled the camp we were based in, which housed approximately 6,000 people.

“There were also more than 400 inmates from minimum security prisons helping out with the fires.

“My role as Field Liaison Officer had me working in the Incident Management Team in Santa Rosa and out in the field assisting the 33 deployed Victorian firefighters with travel, safety, and systems.

“I travelled to the base camps where the FFMVic firefighters were posted to check in and make sure they were all doing well.

“I also worked on the fire in Santa Rosa as a frontline firefighter.  

“This was my first time to the US and the enormity of the event was unbelievable but our FFMVic firefighters met every challenge head on with professionalism and strength.

“The local communities were so welcoming and grateful that we were there to help them, it was overwhelming.

“On our last day, the Santa Rosa/Napa Valley fire was under control and was handed back to the local Santa Rosa fire departments to manage.

“My biggest learning from the experience was how organised and professional the Americans are while carrying out such a massive undertaking with thousands of people.”

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