HEMPHILL COUNTY, TX (KFDA) - With resources low, the state has stepped in to help battle the Perryton fire that has spread through Ochiltree, Lipscomb, Roberts and Hemphill counties.
The Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System or TIFMAS is an organization that is comprised of 329 fire departments and more than 5,000 volunteer and active firefighters.
TIFMAS fighters from Vernon, Abilene and Wichita Falls were called by Texas A&M Forest Services to help assist the Perryton fire on March 6. This crew was later deployed to help assist the Lefors East fire in Gray county.
As of March 7, crews from Lewisville, Dallas, Fort Worth, Stepenville along with others from North and Northwest Texas deployed more than 20 men to Canadian, who are now containing the Perryton fire that has stretched to Hemphill county.
"We use TIFMAS to fight devastating fires and we can use them for what we call staging," said Stacy Harvick, Texas A&M Forest Services PIO. "Staging is when we put people strategically where we know where weather is going to be an issue for that day. Each day these crews will be assigned a new task and these crews will be placed all around the fire, they can be hundreds of miles from one another."
As containment of the Perryton fire grows stronger, TIFMAS crews will monitor those containment lines. They will dig to the ground to expel brush or debris like partially burned tree limbs that can fuel the fire.
This fire came just a few feet from engulfing Charles Steele's family farm house. Early on March 7, he fought the blaze alone before Texas State Parks and the TIFMAS team arrived.
"I got here about 3:30 am, all I saw were flames and smoke, I couldn't see a thing and l didn't know if the house was going to be here," said Steele. "It was a huge relief when I saw State Parks and all these fire departments. I only have a small five gallon tank and these guys have over 900 gallon water tanks."
The crews in Hemphill county and those protecting the Steele family property consist of 6 wild land engines, one water tenant and a strike team leader.
"It's an honor to be here because we are all Texans and we all are helping Texans across the state," said Dallas Fire & Rescue Lieutenant, Stephen Bisbee. "A lot of us come from rural backgrounds and we know how important agriculture is and when we see these field and pastures burned off, we know what that loss is. We want to be here to help these residents, these counties and towns, it just means a whole lot to us."
These TIFMAS crews are expected to remain in the Panhandle until the fire is contained to a point where area fire departments can control the fire alone. If weather happens to worsen they can remain in the area up until March 14.
If you want to learn more about TIFMAS, visit their website.