Bryan firefighters helped suppress almost 100 wildfires during the record-breaking 2011 fire season, prompting the chief to ensure his department is trained and prepared for the next big blaze.
The Bryan Fire Department joined forces with Texas A&M Forest Service in late 2012 and spent months identifying wildfire risks and strategies to reduce those risks. The resulting product is the department's Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), a national model for hazard mitigation.
But Bryan Fire Chief Randy McGregor said it was important for his department to expand on the typical CWPP template. The chief felt compelled, he said, to make sure his firefighters were equipped for tactical wildfire response. BFD firefighters typically respond to a high volume of medical calls and single-structure fires, which require different response tactics than a wildfire that can burn hundreds of acres and multiple buildings in a single day.
To address those needs, McGregor put his firefighters through a wildland training course and, with Texas A&M Forest Service, began crafting the first collaborative "Wildfire Pre-Attack Plan" in Texas. The pocket guide delves into specific tactics, outlining water sources, home construction materials and vegetation types for individual Bryan neighborhoods, particularly those that present high risks.
"We owe it to our residents to ensure that we have the tools we need to protect them and their homes when the next wildfire ignites," McGregor said. "This process has provided us an excellent resource for our responders as well as mutual aid firefighters who may not be familiar with Bryan."
The working group of Bryan firefighters and Texas A&M Forest Service officials didn't stop there.
During a meeting in March, McGregor tossed out another good idea: "What if we made the Pre-Attack Plan a smartphone app?" he asked. "If responders could download the plan to their phone, they could view maps and get all the information they need, even begin crafting an evacuation plan, before they arrive at the fire."
The rest is history - and available for free download at the iTunes store.
For more information on Community Wildfire Protection Plans, visit texasfirewise.org.