Local and state officials are drawing upon the resources of The Texas A&M University System to assist in evaluating, coordinating and responding to the 480 wildfires that have consumed nearly 180,000 acres in Texas in the past week. The Texas Forest Service, Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, all of which are a part of the A&M System, are taking the lead in responding to efforts statewide.
“Our emergency responders are out in the field, sharing their experience and expertise with those who need it so desperately during these horrible wildfires,” said John Sharp, the newly appointed chancellor of the A&M System. “I am proud of the hard work of the A&M System members and honored to be a part of a dedicated group of employees who contribute so much to this state. The A&M System is much more than education and research; we’re also out there on the front lines making sure our fellow Texans are safe and secure. When we say we’ve got Texas covered, we mean it.”
The bulk of A&M System employees and resources are being directed to the Bastrop County Complex fire. The 34,068-acre fire has merged with the 719-acre Union Chapel fire and is only now 60 percent contained. Over 1,500 homes have been destroyed and two civilians found dead.
The Texas Forest Service has brought in their Southern Area Type I Incident Management Team to assist in managing the fire. The Forest Service has responded to 179 fires in the past week and is working to provide protection to homes located within the perimeter of the fire.
Texas Task Force-1, a part of the Texas Engineering Extension Service, is on the scene working closely with local law enforcement and fire departments to conduct and coordinate search and rescue efforts. The nearly 100 personnel and canines of Texas Task Force-1 are in Bastrop conducting wide area search and assessments. The Texas Engineering Extension Service is responsible for coordinating urban search and rescue efforts under the State of Texas Emergency Management Plan, which includes Texas Task Force-1, the most active search and rescue team in the country. Texas Task Force-1 has responded to at least one major disaster every year since its first deployment in 1998.
The Veterinary Emergency Team at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is providing care for the canine unit and assisting in meeting the needs of pets and livestock affected by the wildfire. The 13-member team includes faculty, clinicians, vet technicians, staff, and students. The team has been working with Texas Animal Health Commission officials to respond to animal injuries and coordinate care efforts.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Service is providing Texans and others with free, objective, research-based information to help with emergency and disaster preparation and recovery. The Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, or Texas EDEN, at http://texashelp.tamu.edu contains information and materials relating to specific disasters.