SMYTH COUNTY, Va. - Thousands of firefighters have come from around the country to fight the wildfires out west and a few of them have come from our area.
Two firefighters from Southwest Virginia packed up and went to Idaho to lend a hand to people in need there.
Ask any firefighter and they'll tell you being a firefighter is like being a part of a brotherhood. For some, that means always answering the call for help. "Just to help out the people who need it, I mean they need help out there and they came to us for the help so we offered it to them," says Chilhowie firefighter Austin Mason.
So when the U.S. Forestry Service called looking for volunteers, Chilhowie volunteer firefighters Austin Mason and Luke Newton went to help. The pair spent two weeks in Idaho fighting the fire in Beaver Creek. "When we got there camp was about 1,800 firefighters strong and it's a totally different animal out there," adds Newton.
The two slept in tents along with the other firefighters and did different things to help, like keep an eye on all the homes in the area, something that made the people out there grateful. "You lose something like that, it's hard to replace, so they were very thankful for us being there to watch their homes," says Mason.
The rest of their time was spent rehabilitating the area to prevent erosion.
This is an experience they want to bring back to the Chilhowie Fire Department. "I kept a journal while I was out there of things we were doing, things we could do here, and things we can train on here. It was a definite positive learning experience in every way," adds Newton.
If given the chance, both men tell us they would do it again. "It's serving your country. There is more than one way to serve your country," adds Newton.
"I like helping people. I've always wanted to and just to help people when they need it most," says Mason.
We learned the Chilhowie Fire Department has one firefighter that is still deployed in California fighting wildfires. He's expected to be back Monday.
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