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Katy Firefighters Provide Aide to Panhandle Fire

KATY MAGAZINE NEWS

March 8, 2024

By Natalie Cook Clark

 

Firefighting crews and equipment from Harris County ESD 48 in Katy continue to work to assist on the record-breaking fires in the Texas Panhandle.


Photo credit: Harris County ESD 48

 

Katy Firefighters Fight Texas Fire

Katy’s Harris County ESD 48 answered to call to aide firefighters in the Texas panhandle by sending a crew on February 27, 2024 and then a second team on March 1, 2024.  



 

“In addition to the 6 firefighters and two Boosters, we are assisting East Montgomery County Fire Department by providing an Engine Boss to deploy with their team. An Engine Boss is a Wildland Firefighting term similar to an officer (Lieutenant or Captain) on a fire truck,” explains Jason Tharp, Battalion Chief of Community risk Reduction/ PIO for Harris County ESD 48 Fire Department.

The Largest Fire in Texas History

The Texas Smokehouse Fire broke out the end of February in Hutchinson County and is still only 15% contained. The fire is now considered the largest fire in the state’s history and according to the A&M Forest Service was started by a powerline. While it’s the largest and most destructive fire in Texas history, it is also the second most destructive in the nation.

 

“We are such a small piece to the equation that it becomes hard to imagine that we are impacting the incident. That is the beauty in the system though,” Captain Chase Robberson. “It takes such a significant number of resources all working together to see the success from this operation.”

 

According to the Texas Government, 400-500 structures have been destroyed. What’s made this fire so bad is that a nearby fire, the 687 Reamer Fire in the same county burned into it merging the two. A big concern is the continual spread risks as the fire could expand this weekend due to winds and weather conditions.

 


“I think the damage from this fire spans far greater than an eye can see. I know families have lost much more of their lives than something that can be replaced by a dollar,” says Captain Robberson. “You could see it in the heart felt and sometimes emotional thank you that those who were sparred any damage and those who lost it all that the memories from the fire will reside with them for years to come.”

 

The Smokehouse Fire has exceeded 1.1 million acres.

 

“Wildfires do not need to be tens of thousands of acres to threaten our community,” says Tharp. “A wildfire of 100 acres or less can be just as destructive as large wildfires. The best way to help first responders is to stay informed.”

 

According to Tharp, there are many resources available such as the International Association of Fire Chiefs "Ready, Set, Go!" program, NFPAs Firewise USA, the Texas A&M Forest Service and Smokybear.com to name a few 

 

“Local resources, including personnel and apparatus, are deployed at the request of the State to provide assistance,” says Tharp. “As a partner agency, HCESD48 firefighters have deployed assets for TIFMAS and have played critical roles in major fires across Texas and the United States. The State of Texas reimburses local governments the cost of providing the resources.” 

 


Photo credit: Harris County ESD 48


Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) is coordinated by the Texas A&M Forest Service.  TIFMAS is the framework through which fire & rescue agencies work together to provide support for incidents as diverse as hurricanes and wildfires.

 

“I got to experience what makes Texas... Texas,” says Captain Robberson. “The sheer magnitude of those of selflessness and generosity that is so willingly shared among these communities is remarkable. I have seen this over and over again in my deployments and this one was by far no exception.”



 

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