PASADENA (CBSLA) — Pasadena firefighter-paramedic Justin Hester was on a mission of mercy Saturday as he left California for Australia.
So far, the wildfires have killed 27 people — including four firefighters — more than a billion animals and have destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
“Who doesn’t love a koala and kangaroo,” Hester said. “It just tugs at your heartstrings.”
Hester leaves days after a group of Southern California firefighters deployed to Australia earlier this week where they were greeted with applause as they landed in Sydney.
But Hester will be working as a volunteer for the non-profit group Reach Out Worldwide, founded by the late actor Paul Walker. The five-person team creates fire breaks, but they won’t be on the front lines.
“But we will do whatever we can to make those firefighters lives comfortable if we have that opportunity,” Joshua Stout, of reach Out Worldwide, said.
Hester previously volunteered for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, where he said he learned so much and was able to bring back that knowledge to his department.
“Here’s a person who cares about the department and outside this department also,” Aceanyer Brown, Hester’s battalion chief, said.
He is using some of his vacation time and swapping shifts with his coworkers to fulfill his seven-day mission, but he had to ask the big boss before he volunteered to leave.
“I have four kids,” he said. “My wife at home, and I got to talk to that chief first before I’m able to do what I want to do and pursue my passion in life.”