Fighting Fires Far Away, Staying Strong Back Home

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND COUNTY - Fire departments across West Texas are rolling out, called in by the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, a system used by the Texas Forest Service.

Since August 31st, TIFMAS has deployed 32 command vehicles, 22 structure fire trucks, more than 100 brush trucks and nearly 500 firefighters.

It's the largest deployment in the history of the four-year-old system.

TIFMAS called the Northeast Midland County Volunteer Firefighters after 8:00 p.m. Thursday night.

They were needed to fight the Magnolia Fire 45 miles north of Houston, TX, which has already burned 13,000 acres.

They deployed Friday morning at 5:00 a.m., taking with them their Fire Chief, three other firefighters and one brush truck.

Now the firefighters still here, hope a large fire requiring their full strength, which they don't have right now, doesn't spring up.

"Anytime we get a call, we go," NE Midland County VFD Firefighter, Michael Reed, said. "Luckily, we had four firefighters that could take the time off from work and can go. I'm not able to get off from work, so I'm one of those that's going to be staying here to take care of my county."

There's not too much time to prepare, as the system needs firefighters to be ready to roll out at least six hours after the call.

For volunteer firefighters, there's also a cost to the system.

Those four firefighters will have to take five days off of work to fight the fire as well as pay for the fuel for the more than eight-hour trip.

Still, firefighters said it's much safer to be deployed in this system than self-dispatching themselves.

"It does cause confusion, and they do prefer that you register with the system, that you go as an organized task force," NE Midland County VFD Firefighter, Ron Sommers, said. "That way, everybody's covered."

Volunteer firefighters said it's in these long trips where their low funding hits them the hardest, with the worry that the truck might break down in a different part of the state.

But for those that remain in the Basin, though their supplies are lower, they said they'll still work just as hard to protect the county.

"It just may take us a little longer and we have to make sure that our territory is protected and that the citizens of Northeast Midland County get the best possible protection they can," Sommers said. "Nobody's without fire protection. We're just a few guys down and one piece of apparatus down."

If you'd like to place your department on the the TIFMAS list, all you have to do is E-mail its state coordinator, Joe Florentino, at jflorentino@littleelm.org.

The Northeast Midland County Volunteer Fire Department is always in need of donations and volunteers also. You can give them a call at (432) 686-9383.