Plano Fire-Rescue initiated its Wildland Team Program in 2011 as a result of the State of Texas developing the Texas Interstate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS). TIFMAS provides the framework to mobilize personnel and equipment available in unaffected regions of the state for Mutual Aid in the event of natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and winter storms. Plano Fire-Rescue became a partner agency in this program, exhibiting our dedication to our neighbors in Texas and beyond.
In 2011 the newly established Wildland Team was assigned to the just completed Station 13. This Station houses a Type 1 Engine (regular fire engine) and the department's Type 6 Engine (commonly called a brush truck). In addition to their response within city limits, these vehicles and personnel are available for response regionally, within the state and at the national level.
The Wildland Team follows nationally recognized standards developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) for Federal and State Wildland Firefighters for training and physical ability. Additional training is available and encouraged. The Wildland Team attempts to maintain approximately 30 individuals available for assignments of up to two weeks with as little as two hours notice. Once dispatched to an incident the team is expected to be self-sufficient for up to 48 hours and may be required to camp in tents for the duration of the trip.
All requests for assistance from the State are coordinated and sent through the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) thus providing an organized and systematic response. This also includes the tracking of personnel and equipment for complete reimbursement to the responding entity. The City of Plano is fully compensated for expenses incurred for equipment and personnel responding to the incident. This also covers the backfill of personnel into the positions vacated, ensuring there is no reduction in daily staffing, or added cost. This equates to a cost neutral situation for the City of Plano.
An additional opportunity the Team uses for training is the participation in prescribed burns with local, state, private, and federal entities. Some of the agencies we have supported for these events include the US Forest Service, the Texas A&M Forest Service, The Texas Parks and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy. We have also partnered with Plano Parks and Recreation in conducting prescribed fires within some of the City owned Nature Preserves. Participating in prescribed fire events allows Team members to use wildland fire tactics and tasks in a non-emergent scenario to introduce fire back into a landscape that was a fire driven ecology prior to civilization. This helps in controlling invasive species, reducing accumulations of fuels to prevent catastrophic wildfires, and exposing the soil for native grass planting while allowing members to hone skills and leadership principles at a cost savings to the Parks.
Our Wildland Team's responses have included the major wildfires of 2011 to Hurricane Harvey. In 2018 alone Plano Fire-Rescue has staffed over 30 positions in response to 8 different incidents from wildfires in west Texas to southern California. Most of these assignments were being managed by Type 1 National Incident Management Teams, the highest level of management available in the nation. Through these experiences The Wildland Team can observe, learn and bring back to the City of Plano the highest-level knowledge and experience available. This, along with some additional training, will allow Plano Fire Rescue to build the leadership capacity to support major incidents not only at the local level but also Statewide responses.
With the apparent increase in natural disasters the Wildland Team within Plano Fire-Rescue will maintain a high level of readiness to support whatever the situation requires.