Brownwood Firefighters Join Battle Against Wildfire Outbreaks
BROWNWOOD, TX – Two Brownwood firefighters left their families behind and put themselves in “harm’s way” by joining the Texas A&M Forrest Service and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid Systems (TIFMAS) for deployment to the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo to battle wildfire outbreaks.
Interim Fire Chief Grady Shuey said the firefighters have been on deployment for over a week, and the two firefighters to respond are Lt. Kyle Whitley and Firefighter Evan Owen.
“The Brownwood Fire Department is proud to participate in this State system because it is vital to the fire protection of our State,” said Shuey. “If the tables were turned, and it was the Brownwood area that was in trouble, there would be assistance from all over the State of Texas.”
Shuey noted that the State Operations Center in the Texas Department of Emergency Management predicted that there were going to be major wildfire outbreaks because of the weather pattern with drought conditions and single digit relative humidity with 45-mile-per-hour sustained winds, and gusts up to 60 miles per hour.
Additionally, State Operations Center knew fires would burn with flame heights equal to a one-story building and spread the “length of a football field in less than a minute,” Shuey said.
He mentioned that the Brownwood Fire Department got the call from the State on Tuesday, Feb. 21, and Whitley and Owen left to Amarillo to meet up with the rest of their Strike team from the Abilene Fire Department and the Wichita Falls Fire Department.
A Strike Team consists of five similar trucks with a Strike Team Leader, and they function all together as one unit, Shuey explained.
“The State moved two Strike Teams to Amarillo, and two teams to Midland,” he said.
This move occurred before the cold fronts hit, and before there was a fire to respond to. Also, once the team was in place, it didn’t take long to get assigned to a large fire near Dalhart, Shuey noted.
“Our Strike Team was assigned to back up a dozer strike team,” he said. “They ended that fire after about 13,000 acres burned.”
Next, the team was assigned to rescue a hiker in Palo Duro Canyon.
During the last few days, the firefighters have been fighting the large fire near Tulia, where several homes were destroyed and evacuations had to take place.
“As of today, that fire has consumed around 2,200 acres, and is 85 percent contained,” Shuey said.
At this time, the City of Brownwood and Brownwood Fire Department is asking for people to keep the first responders battling these fires in their thoughts and prayers as they are put in harm’s way.