MIDLAND COUNTY - Flames charring acres upon acres of West Texas soil this past year have now secured a permanent place for the Texas Forest Service in Midland County.
The Service, which normally is accustomed to fighting fires in East Texas, received enough funding from the Texas Legislature to spread their offices across the state, and now they're setting up shop in the Permian Basin.
"We received funding to establish offices in West Texas and have a more permanent presence out here. It's very timely due to the wildfires," Texas Forest Service Wildland Urban Interface Specialist, Patrick Allen, said.
10 service personnel and all the resources of the Service now call Midland County home.
The personnel brings with them two bulldozers and one maintainer, which helps build fire lines.
With a brand-new wildfire season looming this coming February and through the high winds of April, Midland firefighters said the Service's new home brings them a welcome relief.
"Knowing that those resources are based out of here kind of gives us a sense of relief that we can call on those resources quicker than if they were in Abilene or Merkel or where they're stationed at," City of Midland Fire Marshal, Jeff Meiner, said.
The Service's staff is currently staying in two trailers next to the old Midland County Exhibit Building, but once the Midland County Commissioners finish renovations inside it, the Service will call the building home.
It will save the Service the expenses of always setting up temporary lodgings in Midland County during fire season, and it will improve relations with local firefighters, who already do training with them.
It's all in an effort to get a leg up on the coming fire season.
"We used to have to respond out of Granbury. That used to be our furthest west office, and then they'd have to drive six hours to get to a wildfire whereas now we're in Midland and we don't have to drive as far," Allen said.
"It's still going to be a challenge," Meiner said. "There's always going to be that competing for resources. Last year proved that we don't have enough resources to combat what we did last year. We're going to try our best this coming year."