Firefighting Strategies Change After 2006 Season Lessons

Firefighting Strategies Change After 2006 Season Lessons

11 April 2009

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USA — Widespread devastation from the worst wildfire season on record has led to changes in how area fire departments approach fighting a a massive fire.

A 17-thousand-acre fire last weekend in Wheeler and three fires yesterday in the north central Panhandle are just some examples of how much more efficient fire crews have become.

Two hundred acres burned here near Skellytown Thursday, but only for five hours.  Two other fires near Borger were put out in a matter of minutes. 

Because of hard lessons learned from the historic 2006 season, crews in Hutchinson county have been practicing for events just like Thursday’s.

Danny Richards, in charge of emergency management for Hutchinson County, says “where the wildland and city meet, we go in and create this safety zone by actually doing a prescribed burn of the fuel in that area.”

Richards says they have also fine tuned their emergency plans, because “on days when the wind is blowing more than 40 miles per hour, we automatically call for mutual aid from our sister cities, we’ve got ranchers and our sister cities and it’s automatic.”

In Wheeler county, where a fire has charred 17 thousand acres, communications have improved.  Three crews were divided into strike forces on separate radio channels and a command center listened to all three to monitor what went on, a far cry from the organization of three years ago.

County Emergency Manager says, “with the wind blowing 60 miles per hour and a ten mile fire front, who would have thought it would be out in 24 hours?”

The Texas Forest Service says this season mirrors the one from 2006, and until we get rain, to expect more of the same.

Richards also says ranchers in Hutchinson county have undergone fire fighting training so they can also help crews battle those flames.

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