Basin Firefighters Turned Away From Bastrop Fire

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

ECTOR COUNTY - David Avary and Ryan Smith, both South Ector County Volunteer Firefighters, found themselves driving back home overnight on Tuesday after they were turned away from fighting the Bastrop Fire.

The flames remain only 30% contained after burning 30,000 acres and destroying nearly 800 homes.

Avary told NewsWest 9 on Wednesday that he was told it was because the Federal Emergency Management Agency had stepped in.

When NewsWest 9 called FEMA's Regional Office in Denton, TX, they said they had no control over that.

A call to the Texas Forest Service told us more, that the City of Bastrop and the TFS have a unified command over the fire.

It's to make sure those who are self-dispatching themselves to help and aren't certified stay safe.

"We're really asking folks not to self-dispatch themselves," Texas Forest Service Spokesperson, Holly Huffman, said. "With wild land firefighting, we have to have folks trained, qualified and credentialed. We've got folks that are self-dispatching and coming in and maybe aren't credentialed in wild land firefighting. That just adds to the risk of someone getting hurt and that's the last thing that we want."

The Texas Forest Service told NewsWest 9, a viral Facebook message with a phone number called on everyone that could help to come help with the fires.

They don't know how it got out and they don't want firefighters not qualified to handle wild land fires to be at risk.

Avary wouldn't go on camera, but told NewsWest 9 the Bastrop Fire Department told them they needed their help before they went out.

Avary also said he has a firefighter certificate but didn't have it on him at the time.

After making sure his mother in Bastrop County was alright, Avary headed home.

The Texas Forest Service said the best way to help in these fires is to be registered with the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System.

"It's sort of a statewide mutual aid network that allows fire departments to lean on each other statewide in times of need," Huffman said. "Now, we're tapping departments actively through that program. We've got, as of Tuesday, 19 different strike teams sent out through the state."

For departments interested in registering with the system, you can E-mail their state coordinator, Joe Florentino, at

Texas Forest Service officials said it's not an immediate option but is safer than self-dispatching.