Texas Emergency Management ONLINE2011 Vol. 58 No. 4

MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF

Wildland fires

When it comes to courage, endurance and strategic thinking, firefighting is unique in the demands it places on our first responders. That’s even more the case when it comes to wildland fires.

Wildfire, propelled by high winds, can burn the length of a football field in a single minute – destroying absolutely everything in its path, producing fire tornadoes and throwing off sparks that can ignite structures a mile or more away. There are times when the only thing our residents can do when they are in the path of a wildfire is to evacuate, leaving everything behind.

I want to extend my personal thanks to the men and women in our volunteer and professional firefighting organizations who have stood up during the extreme fire weather that has threatened our state this year – and to the officials with local jurisdictions who have supported each other in these efforts.

The agencies participating in the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) have provided invaluable service to our threatened communities and to our state. TIFMAS agencies include the Texas Forest Service, the Texas Fire Chiefs Association, the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association, the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters and the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.

Fire statistics are a moving target, but by the end of March, state and local fire fighters had battled 4,325 fires burning across 520,161 acres this year. They had saved more than 10,000 homes and other buildings from destruction, with 537 structures lost. You can follow the war against wildfire on a regular basis by visiting the Texas Forest Service Current Wildfire Situation page.

I also want to commend the dedicated researchers at the Texas Forest Service, the National Weather Service and the U.S. Forest Service, who worked together diligently to research and compile the data that has allowed us to predict the kind of weather that can produce a Texas firestorm.

Thanks to their initiative, fire behavior analysts studying a weather system thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean can provide us with the critical heads up that allow us to prepare and to position state resources in advance – resources that can make a life and death difference to our communities.

Last, I would like to encourage all Texans to learn to be fire ready – and fire wise – by taking a look at the websites listed below. Whether you live in newly constructed suburbs on the edge of cities, or in areas of town filled with brushy grass and trees, follow our tips for fire safety.

Most of all, avoid outdoor activities that could produce sparks, pay attention to the Texas Department of Transportation highway signs, monitor broadcast media when you travel – and when you see smoke across the highway that is impeding visibility, slow down and turn back.

Texas Forest Service Current Wildfire Situation page

Texas Forest Service: Texas Firestorm

Texas Division of Emergency Management: Wildfire Awareness

Firewise

Fire Weather Research


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