Emergency Operation Center at center of Texas wildfire response

Posted at 10:07 PM, Mar 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-21 01:18:43-04

The Texas A&M Forest Service Emergency Operation Center might be hours away from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle fires, but their everyday workload makes a big difference.The center is located in College Station and is designed to help first-responders in an emergency situations like wildfires. 

Emergency team members come in every day to prepare for emergencies, monitor weather patterns and process information. Texas A&M Forest Service Spokesperson Phillip Truitt said that every emergency situation is tough but working together to get the job done is worth it.

"It's very tiring. It's not really glamorous work. It's back-breaking hard work, but I enjoy what I do and the guys around me enjoy what they do," Truitt said.

"We're working on a much more strategic level here looking five, ten days out and letting them do the immediate fire suppression," said Don Hannemann, the emergency operations center coordinator said.

Truitt said new technology really helps them with that strategy. They have plane trackers, that help them see where every plane or helicopter is, and GIS Collectors, that allow firefighters to send their location and pictures back to the center so it can map the fires.

"We're getting real-time data from firefighters on the ground cell phones and being able to use that data to make maps and gather other information for our commanders on the ground," Truitt said.

"It has been helped a lot with the new technology and the great communications that are from our field personnel all the data that they push up, pictures and video has been exceptionally helpful," Hannemann said.

They said it's all of that technology, communication and strategy that help them quickly contain the wildfires and save more lives.

"It takes a team to fight a wildfire. There's no one person to push the fire out. From the firefighter on the ground to us here in the emergency operations center to the news media to the public. Everybody does their part," Truitt said.

Truitt said with the help of other agencies and technologies, there is not one wildfire in the state that the center is unaware of.

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