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Texas A&M Forest Service deploys to five U.S. states

More than 30 personnel assist from Alaska to Florida
Posted at 6:02 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 19:43:15-04

A total of 32 Texas A&M Forest Service personnel, mostly firefighters, have been called to assist in the states of Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Alaska; all places where wildfires have already broken out, or else are at high risk for wildfires at this time.

"All of the state agencies and the federal agencies have resources such as we do in Texas," said Les Rogers, chief of fire operations and incident response with the Texas A&M Forest Service. "If we have a person with a qualification they’re looking for, [that person] goes to the closest resource.”

Texas' forest service has formed partnerships with agencies all across the United States, willing to help colleagues when they become overwhelmed.

“Right now Arizona and New Mexico are having fires, and they need additional engines and supervisor personnel," Rogers said. "So they put a request in, as we have many folks whom we can allow to go out of state and help people when we’re not having any fire season."

Personnel consists mostly of firefighters at this time, but these professionals offer a wide variety of occupational skills, critical to use in times of disaster.

"Our folks go there to support aviation-type roles," mentioned Erin O'Connor, program specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service. "They could be managing the air tanker base, where they’re kind of coordinating the operations there, or they could be filling the flames with retardant. We also have folks that fulfill financial roles."

These men and women will work 16 hours a day in the field, either putting out existing fires, such as those happening in Arizona at the moment, or helping departments to prepare for wildfire season.

"A lot of times you’re in a sleeping bag or a bedroll, [staying] in a tent," Rogers said.

According to the Forest Service, these deployments are voluntary, and firefighters are often eager to sign up for the out-of-state experiences and overtime pay.

"This is a way for Texas to payback for all the fire seasons we’ve had when we needed out-of-state cooperation from partners," noted Rogers. "We call and they come to help us here in Texas, and this is our chance and opportunity to go out and help them.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service works to ensure that the state never sends out so many employees that they will be short-staffed for local emergencies. The forest service is employed by approximately 500 people, and deployments out of state tend to cap off at maximum of 50 personnel.