KILLEEN, Texas (April 1, 2022) – A team of Killeen firefighters that helped battle the Eastland Complex Fires met with members of the media on Friday to discuss the experience.
Battalion Chief Cory Davis and firefighters Joseph Stiles, Charles Layton and Matthew Harper were deployed to Eastland County from March 16-29 to help battle the fires. The deployment was part of a Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), a system designed to provide aid across the state.
“It wasn’t just about saving lives, it was about their livelihood,” Davis said. “My heart’s definitely with the people who lost their homes. That breaks my heart. But we also saved homes, we saved lives, so we’re able to come home and be proud of the job we did.”
The Eastland Complex Fires burned more than 55,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service, surpassing the 2011 Bastrop wildfires.
“We haven’t seen these types of conditions since 2011,” Davis said. “The Bastrop fire burned more homes, but this burned more acres.”
The firefighters say the most memorable part of the experience was witnessing the resiliency of the people and that their attitude made the team’s job easier.
“The people essentially went through hell,” Layton said. “As much stuff as they’d gone through, every time we’d turn around somebody was thanking us. Their demeanor made our job easier knowing that the people appreciated us being out there.”
The crews worked with firefighters from five other departments, including Temple and Austin, and said though they didn’t know any of the other firefighters, they all gelled and when it was time to work, there was no lagging.
After a brief time to reflect and relax upon returning home, the crew is back on the job and ready answer the next call, which could be fighting a structure in town, helping battle the fires on Fort Hood, or traveling to another part of the state.
“We have to pack our stuff every day,” Layton said. “We may start here, but we may end up in South Texas by the end of the day.”