MISSION — For 33 days Rey Navarro battled some of the worst bushfires in Australia’s history, across the globe from his hometown of Mission.
Thursday night the city of Mission and the Boys & Girls Club of Mission recognized the firefighter, whose first job was working with the Mission Boys & Girls Club.
Navarro, 39, was presented with an award and helped pass out trophies to Boys & Girls Club athletes at the ceremony.
“It’s a true testament of a sacrifice that he did, for not only the city but for everyone that he was out there to help, so thank you Rey for doing that,” Mission City Manager Randy Perez said Thursday. “It really means a lot that you are from our city, and we appreciate that.”
Navarro, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Assistant Fire Management Officer, joined firefighters from across the nation who traveled to help fight Australian bushfires that have been described as unprecedented.
Navarro was the only firefighter from Texas to go.
“We all mustered up in Los Angeles, that’s where all the firefighters from all different states arrived,” he said. “From Los Angeles we flew to Sydney, and then from Sydney we flew the short flight to Melbourne, and from there they took us in a bus to the emergency management of Victoria facility.”
Navarro said they arrived in Victoria on Jan. 6. Millions of acres were burnt or burning by then, wildfires consuming homes and lives and wildlife.
“After the briefing and after talking, we were hitting the fireline shortly thereafter. January 10th was our first shift, so we were there for 33 days and we got utilized pretty heavily,” he said.
Navarro said that he and his fellow firefighters worked hard to contain the fires.
“It was pretty active, a lot of bushfires throughout the state of Victoria. We worked with the Australian government and our assignment was pretty simple, it was to assist the Australian government, forest fire management and suppress forest fires,” he said.
The experience was gratifying, Navarro said.
“All of my colleagues and all of the firefighters were just soaking everything in. For most of us it was our first time going to the country of Australia,” he said. “It was just humbling, and we’re honored to help the Australian government.”
Navarro said he didn’t expect the recognition he received Thursday evening.
“I kind of just stay quiet and to myself, but this is very humbling and [I’m] honored, and I’m grateful for this opportunity, representing my agency and the city of Mission and the Department of the Interior, so I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”