Wildfire task force becomes reality

Wildfire task force becomes reality

9 February 2008

published by www.heralddemocrat.com

USA — The Grayson County Association of Fire Chiefs’ Wildfire Task Forceis now ready after two years of preparation.

The Association began putting together this task force after the 2006 droughtand resulting wildfires across Grayson County. One of the first steps was tolearn what resources each of the 19 fire departments in the county could providein emergencies and protect and defend their own individual fire districts.

The list that came in included tankers, brush trucks, command vehicles,engines, and manpower and every fire department is contributing. Those pieces ofequipment and manpower were divided into four groups.

Two are primary grass fire groups, said GCAFC President Allen Vols, also Prestonfire chief, which now are on-call on alternate days.

The third is a command logistics crew, and the fourth is a backup group withadditional extra equipment.

Grayson County is in a Red Flag warning, and grass fires have been springing upalready.

On Tuesday of last week, there were wildfires across the county, two of whichcovered 100 acres each. Cooke, Collin, and Denton counties had an even largerone, for which the Grayson County fire departments along the county linesprovided mutual aid. Vols said that 16 of the 19 fire departments foughtwildfires that day and the other three stayed busy manning and equipping emptystations against further outbreaks.

The Association almost put its wildfire task force into motion that day,standing by for possible deployment to Whitesboro, but called it back when theCooke County wildfire was brought under control.

Mutual aid agreements already being used among the fire departments will stay inplace. Currently, dispatchers send at least one mutual aid fire department toevery grass or structure fire to assist the responsible fire department, andoften they send out two departments for mutual aid.

It is to be noted that this task force plan includes only Grayson County firedepartments, but they also receive help from and provide mutual aid toneighboring Fannin, Cooke, Collin, and Denton counties.

It’s if or when the fire danger expands or threatens to escalate to enormitythat any fire department can request the task force be sent for more aid. Volssaid wind shifts could contribute to such an escalation. “There are no twoidentical fires,” Vols said.

Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum approved the task force plan Friday when he metwith representatives of the Association, Vols said. With that approval, it couldmake the departments eligible for FEMA funds when the task force is deployed,for example, to a Cooke County wildfire of the 2006 magnitude.

The approval also connects the task force to the Grayson County EmergencyOperation Center, led by Jerry White. Vols said that once the task force isactivated, White will man the EOC. It will then be up to White to decide whetheror not to bring in other EOC personnel.

The task force plan can be expanded to include responses to other emergencies,such as tornado or flooding first response, but Vols said that will be anotherstep for the Association to take. The Association will also take a look now tosee if such a task force will open doors for additional grants.

The plan offers other advantages, such as when a grass fire takes several hoursto battle. Fuel can be shuttled for the trucks in battle, additional manpowerfor relief, quicker response times, more concentrated area coverage which leavesno area unprotected.

Vols said such a task force plan has been utilized by other counties acrossTexas. “But until the Fire Chiefs Association was created several years ago,we never had the organizational capabilities. Before,” he said, “it was 19departments running on their own steam.”

Since its inception, the Association has also worked with the Grayson CountyCommissioners Court to approve a three-year countywide contract and to create anaccountability system. “That’s a very big safety item,” Vols emphasized,“especially in structure fires.” Every fire department uses the same systemto assure firefighter whereabouts, and when one provides mutual aid to another,the system keeps them all working alike.


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