Veterans train in Bastrop County to battle wildfires

Volunteers with Team Rubicon train at Camp Swift in Bastrop County.

BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — “One of the hardest things I’ve done, or potential of doing, hiking up mountains especially with gear and into a fire.”

Walking is just half the battle.

“We need help from anybody who’s willing to give it.”

Fighting the flames is the mission.

Dozens of people from around the country united in Bastrop County Sunday. They’re a part of Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response non-profit, and they’re all training to be a wildland firefighter, and it’s personal.

“There was a mountain fire in California that came close to a lot of my friends’ houses and and my house, that almost took our house, and it’s because the wildland crews that it didn’t, so I want to be here to hopefully do that for other people,” said Mary Fergus, a member of Team Rubicon.

Mary is a volunteer who was also there for Wimberley after the Memorial Day floods last year, helping families rebuild.

“This one guy played us the guitar at lunch time, (the song) “Wagon Wheel,” and none of us had dry eyes by the end of it,” said Mary.

“Ever since I was a kid, my mom was always (saying), ‘let somebody else do it, let somebody else do it,’ and my response to her was if I don’t do it, who will,
if everybody has the same mentality, who’s going to do it?” said Daniel Pena, and Army veteran and volunteer with Team Rubicon.

As a current law enforcement officer, Daniel lives for helping others, but says this training is giving his fellow brothers and sisters much more.

“Some of the guys just need the brotherhood, the bonding, the connection, and this here gives them meaning and a way to still serve the country,” says Daniel.

It’s a partnership to help each other, both off and on the front lines.

The Team Rubicon wildland fire training will be held in Georgia next. Bastrop County is one of six training sites this year. Last year, there were five training sessions.

The wildland fire training with Team Rubicon started in June 2015, where 198 veterans were trained nationwide. One-hundred of those trainees were sent out to help with wildfires. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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