SACRAMENTO (KCBS)—A firefighting crew made up of military veterans has recently been assembled by the Bureau of Land Management to battle California’s fires.

The BLM Folsom Lake Hand Crew from Sacramento is an uncommon group of firefighters in California—they are all veterans returning from recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’re one of the first ones that I know of,” said firefighter Paul McLellan. “I think there a couple of other crews in the country.”

KCBS’ Megan Goldsby Reports:

The BLM is sponsoring three all-veteran wildland firefighting crews this year. They provide military veterans with an opportunity for employment and training in fire suppression and fuels management.

The group will join a hand crew from Hawaii along with a water tenders from Hollister and members of the Sacramento Fire Department to create a task force that will be deployed later Friday to fight various blazes across Northern California.

While the Folsom Lake Hand Crew just started July 2, McLellan said there are several elements of the military that help them to be prepared to be good firefighters.

“I was infantry, so there was a lot of hiking across Afghanistan and this is a lot of hiking. There is a lot of ‘wait’ and there is long shifts and being away from home,” he said.

While the crew knows that residents are grateful for their work, firefighter Tyson Hikes, said that he never feels like a hero.

“I’ve saved a few people’s lives in the Navy but that’s my job,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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