Ellis County firefighters are lending a hand in providing assistance to West Texas residents who are battling grass fires.

Firefighters from Waxahachie, Midlothian, Ferris and Red Oak left Sunday afternoon after answering a call put out by the state for help.

“Evidently, it’s pretty bad for the state to call around. It has totally overwhelmed West Texas because of the dry conditions. They have been missing a lot of this rain that we have been getting up here. With the wind coming in they are experiencing some extremely bad grass fires again,” Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins said.

“They will report in to the command post there and will be given a division or a sector to fight.  I talked to them (Monday) morning and they are headed for Big Springs,” he said. “They told us that they would be gone two to three days not counting Sunday. Now if they get there and conditions are bad they may ask them to say over a little bit longer.”

The Associated Press reported that fires blackened almost 80,000 acres and destroyed 58 homes from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin and Rolling Plains. Heavy smoke from a wildfire near Midland was blamed for an eight-car accident along Interstate 20 that killed a 5-year-old girl.

The fire departments supplied personnel and equipment: four brush trucks along with a command vehicle.

Leading the group is Red Oak Fire Chief Eric Thompson, who will oversee the operation of the trucks in the team and keep the command post updated with the progress they are making. While out on this assistance call the state will cover expenses.

Waxahachie Capt. Dwight Banks and firefighter Larry Sodek volunteered to go on the call, with Hudgins saying local service won’t be impacted due to their absence as their positions will be backfilled with other available personnel.

“The state will pay for their salary and will then pay the city overtime to fill those positions when those men would have normally been on. They will furnish food, gas and all of this. Basically all our guys have to take is a change of clothes and bunker gear,” he said.

“The only thing is that it puts us down one brush truck, but we felt like with the number of brush trucks in our area (that we’re) only losing four,” he said. “With ESD 6 Volunteer Fire Department having several brush trucks we thought that it would not hurt our operation because we haven’t been experiencing any bad grass fires here. We are in pretty good shape here and we should be thankful.”

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.