Heathcote firefighter returns from US after two weeks battling forest fires in California

A Heathcote man recently returned from helping fight devastating forest fires in California has spoken of how prison inmates were used to help battle blazes. 

Forest Fire Management Victoria’s Pat McCarthy spent two weeks in Northern California with other Victorian firefighters at the Central Santa Rosa/Napa Valley fire. 

Mr McCarthy said it was an incredible experience and he was blown away by the whole process. 

Related: Heathcote firefighter helping US counterparts

When Mr McCarthy arrived, 10,700 firefighters, and more than 1000 tankers, were tackling the fire.  

In total, 486 different agencies were involved in all of the California fires, which included help from 400 inmates from minimum-security prisons, he said.

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

“I also worked on the fire in Santa Rosa as a front line 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.”

“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,” he said.