Utah Firefighter Returns Home After Month Battling Australian Wildfires
Jan 31, 2020, 10:27 PM
(Courtesy Jason Porter)
DUCHESNE, Utah – Utah Bureau of Land Management firefighter Jason Porter returned to the Beehive State after a month fighting wildfires in Australia.
The days are getting a little longer, but in Duchesne County, the snow isn’t going away quite yet.
Which is why Porter was still chopping firewood for his stove on Friday.
“This is mostly lodgepole,” said Porter as he split another log with his ax.
As he collected the split logs for his woodstove, you couldn’t blame him for thinking it would be nice if every tree could be burned on his or anyone else’s terms.
“Twenty-four million acres in Australia as a whole. It’s really hard to get your head around just how big they are,” Porter said.
Porter spent the past month in Australia helping fight the massive wildfires currently burning there.
“Unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere I’ve fought fire before. Just the scale of the fires,” he said.
That means a lot coming from a guy who has spent 20 years fighting wildfires on a large scale in places like Alaska and California.
Australia was different, especially with the speed in which the flames spread.
“As the fire progressed, we would just go to the next community, and then the next, and do the work we would before the fire arrived,” said Porter.
Porter returned home earlier this week. He was part of a team of firefighters from the United States, including a handful from Utah, helping Australia.
“They’ve come here, they’ve had our backs, it’s time to have their backs,” he said. “They treated us as if we were one of their own. We felt very safe the whole time.”
Besides fighting fires, the team Porter was one also marked trees where fires have already burned through.
That way, crews coming after would know where the trees in danger of falling are.
“One of the most dangerous things we deal with in fire right now is hazardous trees,” said Porter. “It’s our biggest killer out there on the fire line and it’s been that way for about ten years now.”
Porter also saw plenty of kangaroos.
“Every day. Tons of kangaroos,” he said with a laugh.
However, he wasn’t laughing when it came to snakes.
Porter doesn’t care for snakes but said he saw enough of them to last a lifetime.
“We were okay until the final few days. We came to an area where there were a lot of them,” he said. “On day one, we asked what snakes were venomous and we were told all of them.”
It’s another reason why he was happy to be back home in the snow, getting back to normal life with his wife and children.
“I was super stoked to have homecooked food again,” Porter said. “There was great food in Australia, but there’s nothing like coming back to what you’re used to and the warmth of your own home.”