Texas deploys more emergency resources amid Panhandle wildfires, federal assistance on the way

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Editor’s note: The above video is from live reporting in Canadian, Texas on Feb. 28, 2024.

TEXAS PANHANDLE (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed more state emergency response resources to the Panhandle as multiple fires blaze across nearly a million acres combined.

Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) on Wednesday to deploy additional state emergency response resources to support wildfire response operations in the area. This followed a disaster declaration Abbott issued Monday for 60 Texas counties in response to widespread wildfire activity.

He also directed TDEM to increase the readiness level of the Texas State Emergency Operations Center (SOC) to Level II (Escalated Response) in support of the state’s response.

High Plains communities, fire departments, agencies advise how to help first responders amid wildfires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a Fire Management Assistance Grant request for the Smokehouse Creek Fire and Windy Deuce Fire, meaning Texas will be eligible for 75% reimbursement from the federal government for costs associated with fighting those fires, according to a release from Abbott’s office.

‘Gut-wrenching’: On the ground in the Panhandle wildfires

The Texas A&M Forest Service expects the fire environment in Texas to trend warmer and drier, increasing the potential for more wildfire activity across the Panhandle over the weekend. According to the service, parts of South Texas also continue to face increased wildfire risk, as well as East Texas, amid active burns. Additionally, the Texas A&M Forest Service raised the Wildland Fire Preparedness Level to Level 3 Wednesday due to an increase in current and expected wildfire activity over the next several days.

Wildland fire preparedness levels (Courtesy: Texas A&M Forest Service)
Wildland fire preparedness levels (Courtesy: Texas A&M Forest Service)

TDEM has activated the following additional state emergency response resources to support wildfire response operations:

Texas A&M Forest Service: 6 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs); All Hazards Incident Management Team personnel; 6 Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) strike teams comprised of over 94 personnel and over 33 fire engines

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (Texas A&M Task Force 1, Texas Task Force 2, and Texas A&M Public Works Response Team): Urban Search and Rescue Teams; Public Works Strike Teams

Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET): Animal veterinary services in impacted communities

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Animal supply points to ensure livestock and pets are sheltered, have feed and critical care

Texas Department of Public Safety: Aviation assets for aerial mapping

Texas Parks and Wildlife: Game Wardens to support local law enforcement

Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas Emergency Medical Task Force): Ambulance bus to support emergency medical mass care needs; 3 Wildland Fire Support Packages including paramedics and ambulances; 5 Medical Incident Support Team personnel

PHOTOS: Panhandle fire grows to 2nd-largest wildfire in Texas history

Those additional resources bring the total number of state emergency response resources to the following:

Texas A&M Forest Service: Over 95 firefighters, heavy equipment such as bulldozers and motor graders; All Hazard Incident Management Team personnel; 11 Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System strike teams comprised of over 189 personnel and over 58 fire engines

Texas Division of Emergency Management: Emergency response personnel to support requests for assistance from local officials; personnel on-site to support local impacted communities

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: Disaster Assessment and Recovery Agents as well as AgriLife Extension Agents to support agricultural and livestock needs

Texas National Guard: CH47 Chinook helicopter with firefighting capability

Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas Emergency Medical Task Force): Wildland Fire Support Packages including paramedics and ambulances

Texas Department of Transportation: Personnel and equipment to assist with road closures and fuel for firefighting support

Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas Emergency Medical Task Force): 6 Wildland Fire Support Packages including paramedics and ambulances

Texas Department of Public Safety: Texas Highway Patrol Troopers to assist with road closures and traffic control

Texas Animal Health Commission: Personnel to provide livestock support

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: Air/water/wastewater monitoring

Travis County firefighters deploying to assist in panhandle fires

How to report wildfire damage to the state

Abbott also urged Texans impacted by wildfire to report property damage by submitting an online damage assessment survey. Texans can report damage to homes, businesses and agricultural property using the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT). The iSTAT survey can be filled out in English and Spanish online at damage.tdem.texas.gov and click on “Ongoing Wildfire Incidents.”

Information provided in the self-reported damage assessment surveys helps emergency management officials identify any immediate resource needs and understand the extent of damages that have occurred. Survey information also aids officials in determining the state’s eligibility for various forms of federal disaster assistance. Reporting damage through the iSTAT tool is a voluntary activity and is not a substitute for reporting damage to your insurance agency. It does not guarantee disaster assistance.

Texans can visit TexasReady.gov for wildfire tips, tfsweb.tamu.edu for safety information, and tdem.texas.gov to report wildfire damages.

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