Mckinney Courier-gazette > News
City to lead wildland firefighting efforts
Wildfires destroyed millions of acres in Texas last year, and with the drought expected to continue, even more wildfires could occur later this year.
The Texas Forest Service, through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), has implemented a plan to develop wildland firefighting experts.
A part of that plan includes the naming of two captains in the McKinney Fire Department (MFD) -- Capt. Michael Stiltz and Capt. Keith Whiteside -- to serve as instructors for a program to train firefighters throughout North Texas on how to better deal with wildfires.
The Texas Forest Service also has strategically placed trailers stocked with a cache of wildland firefighting equipment throughout the state, including in McKinney, Nacogdoches and Austin. The equipment will be used for training purposes, as well as during emergency responses to wildfires.
Steve Pollock, assistant chief with the Texas Forest Service, said, "The McKinney Fire Department was chosen as the staging and coordination site for this training and equipment because of accessibility, demonstrated support of and commitment to the program, adequate facilities to store the trailer, and their outstanding professionalism."
He added, "The Texas Forest Service is excited to partner with McKinney and thanks Fire Chief Danny Kistner, City Manager Jason Gray and members of the McKinney City Council for their support."
Kistner said, "The McKinney Fire Department is dedicated to keeping our community and the state of Texas safe from wildfire and its devastating effects. Captains Stiltz and Whiteside will be invaluable in preparing North Texas firefighters for the demands of wildland firefighting.
"The trailer, placed into service Jan. 5, is an excellent resource for the region. Selection by the Texas Forest Service as the staging location for the specialized equipment reflects their confidence in the McKinney Fire Department as a regional leader," Kistner added. "This resource greatly enhances our capabilities to respond to wildland fires that impact McKinney and the surrounding area. In addition, we hope to acquire specialized equipment, apparatus, tools and funding through grand opportunities directly related to our participation."
Stacie Durham, MFD public information officer, said, "Many citizens incorrectly view wildland fires as a threat only in rural areas. While McKinney is a suburban community, the unprecedented growth and development occurring in locations that were once rural puts us in the Urban Wildland Interface (UWI), the area where developments and improvements meet and intermix with wildland fuels. The intermingling of homes and wildland fuels is a volatile mix and, under certain conditions, can have catastrophic results."
Some suggested UWI fire-safety tips include: perform a thorough outdoor fire safety check of your home and remove debris from all areas around the outside of your home; make your roof fire-safe (a roof made of fire-resistant or non-combustible materials can make your home safer); use non-combustible (metal) screening in eave vents and for windows; trim all dead branches from trees in your yard and prune low-hanging limbs to prevent fire from climbing to the crowns of the trees; sweep gutters, roofs and eaves regularly, and remove leaves, twigs and dead branches from around or near chimneys; and, construct fences, decks or outbuildings connected to the house out of non-combustible materials, and keep them clear of dead leaves, twigs and branches.
"The good news is that many of the risks associated with living in the UWI can be reduced by taking simple precautions," Durham said. "It is the responsibility of all members of the community to take steps to reduce the risks associated with wildfires."