Firefighters from departments across Texas are heading west this week to help California battle raging and deadly wildfires.
“It’s about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Tom Boggus, director of Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS). The state agency is devoted to forest and tree development as well as fire prevention, mitigation, and protection.
Nearly 100 firefighters from 29 Texas fire departments in 20 counties will deploy Wednesday to Northern California where the Mendocino Complex fire continues to burn out of control. Already, it has consumed more than 290,600 acres. The two week old inferno is now the largest wildfire in California’s history but it is only one of numerous wildfires to break out across the Golden State.
Last week, California requested assistance from the Texas A&M Forest Service through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), the fire and rescue operation for wildlife suppression and other hazard support within the state and beyond, according to a TFS press release issued Tuesday.
“We call TIFMAS our ‘surge capacity’ for Texas,” said Boggus. “Guess this time their reach is a bit farther away but we hope to make a big impact in people’s lives.”
Under Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) authorization, Texas will also send 25 fire engines comprised of five strike teams to Northern California’s tri-county Mendocino Complex fire.
“We are glad to help out and that TIFMAS firefighters were able to answer the call,” said Steve Pollock, chief regional coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service. He will oversee the Texas convoy to California. Pollock said the apparatus Texas firefighters will bring are a mix of small and mid-size engines used in structure fires.
The participating 98 Texas firefighters will spend at least two weeks working alongside crews, many from other states and countries, already on the ground. According to Texas fire officials, a convoy of transports deployed Monday night with more engines currently rolling out on the two-day trip to Northern California. Texas firefighters will begin flying out to the region on Wednesday and are expected to report for duty by Thursday morning.
“We will be praying for them as they convoy to the Mendocino Complex,” said Boggus. “This is truly a joint effort and TFS appreciates the partnerships involved to deliver this assistance.”
Presently, California has 20 uncontained wildfires that have ravaged more than 750,000 acres, according to the press release. Across the state, an estimated 14,000 firefighters are battling these blazes. Blistering high temperatures, drought conditions, and wind make for explosive fire conditions that are often difficult to suppress. On Monday, forecasted triple-digit heat prompted the National Weather Service to issue “red flag” warnings across Southern California.
To date, nine people have died in the Mendocino Complex fire comprised of the 241,772 acre Ranch fire located eight miles northeast of Ukiah and the 48,920 acre River fire which has decimated Lake County and the city of Lakeport. Thousands have been evacuated; approximately 160 homes, damaged or destroyed.
On the home front, Texas remains on alert amid its wildfire season, say state fire officials. This year, 6,975 wildfires reportedly burned more than 492,300 acres.
The Texas agencies assisting in the California mutual aid operation includes fire departments in Abilene, Austin, Baytown, Bryan, Canyon Lake, College Station, Dallas, Frisco, Galveston, Kyle, Lake Cities, Lewisville, Little Elm, Lubbock, Montgomery County, Nacogdoches, Oak Hill, Travis County, Parker County, Round Rock, San Antonio, Schertz, Southlake, Stephenville, Texas A&M Forest Service, Webster, Wichita Falls, and Willis.
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