AUSTIN (KXAN) - More than 30,000 wildfires ravaged four million acres across the Lone Star State last year, prompting the creation of a special task force to make sure that never happens again.
On Wednesday, leaders of nearly 30 different private, local, state and federal agencies gathered for the project's inaugural meeting.
"With a state as vast in size and as diverse in environment as Texas, we must be strategic in our wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts," said Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples , who led the group. "As Texas prepares for another potentially active wildfire season it is important to ensure first responders, local and state officials, and landowners are aligned in both fire prevention and response efforts."
The goals of the Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force are:
- Identify areas of the state most at risk for wildfire
- Identify the best tools available to mitigate wildfire risk
- Provide direct and effective outreach to implement mitigation tools
The first step in the task force's plan is already active. The Texas Forest Service recently launched the T exas Wildfire Risk Portal , which includes an online mapping application for homeowners and communities to determine wildfire risk – and take measures to prevent future blazes. It allows users to view a particular area based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, weather conditions, terrain, and potential fire behavior.
Next, the Department of Agriculture plans to release a statewide wildfire packet for communities and emergency responders for the most up-to-date risk prevention tools. It should be available within the next 30 days.
A third facet of the task force will focus on enhancing the state's certification program for trained and insured prescribed burn managers, which is part of the Department of Agriculture. They have developed new licensing categories, which are currently increasing the number qualified burn managers in Texas, who will be able to reduce grasses, brush and natural overgrowth that often fuel uncontrolled wildfires.
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