St. Augustine firefighter fought fires across US; now heads for West Mims fire

A St. Augustine firefighter who has battled blazed across the country is headed to West Mims

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. --  One of the firefighters at the St. Augustine Fire Department really knows what it's like to fight wildfires. He's gone around the country fighting them.  Chance Hines is on his way next week to the West Mims fire, and he says this one is especially treacherous.

"I'm one of those guys who enjoys traveling the country and helping people," Hines said. 

He started with the fires of 1998 in Volusia County.

"'98 was a tough year for everyone," Hines remembered.

Name a major wildfire in the U.S. in the last 20 years, and he has probably fought it.

"I've been to California, Montana, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina," Hines recalled.

Now he's about to go fight the West Mims fire in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge, but it is not the first time he's fought a fire there.

"It's going to be a challenge. That area where they're in,  I was there in 2007 and in 2011.  It's extremely dangerous. Extremely dangerous." Hines said.

Hines said there's just so much that can burn and catch fire quickly.

"There's so much vegetation up there and it's so dry," he said.

"These ladies and gentlemen have got to be on their toes. It's not just the Florida Forest Service and those firefighters coming in from out of state,  but also the residents. They've got to be on their toes, ready to go and move in a moment's notice."

During a wildfire in the same area in 2011, he remembers that two firefighters lost their lives. "So that area is nothing to play around with." Hines said.

The conditions are different for where visiting firefighters stay in Florida compared to other places.

"They typically keep us in hotels because it's so hot and humid here in Florida," Hines explained, "but when I travel out west to Montana and those areas, I typically stay in a tent."

What Hines experiences while taking on these different fires, he brings home and applies those lessons in St. Augustine.

"Every fire is different but there's a tremendous amount of learning that goes on during any of those processes," Hines said. 

 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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