Fire: Valuable lessons learned | Editorial

The strength of Fort Hood’s partnership with the greater Central Texas community was on full display as we battled the largest wildfire in the history of our installation during the week of March 27 through April 1. Local, state and federal agencies came to our aid to fight a blaze that scorched more than 33,000 acres. The effective coordination evident among all of these elements was born from years of hard work on all sides to establish enduring relationships with clear lines of communication. When they were needed, all of Central Texas rallied together in a way that is a model for others to follow.

Despite extensive wildfire mitigation efforts across the Fort Hood training area since 2020, severe drought conditions combined with a sudden and drastic change in wind speed and direction caused what are now known as the 2022 Crittenburg and Flat fires to spread rapidly. Within hours, US Fish and Wildlife along with the Texas A&M Forest service had aircraft in the air supporting the containment of the fire. Local fire departments arrived quickly to stand side-by-side with Fort Hood firefighters. Leaders and emergency responders across Texas asked only how they could help – and help they did!

The combined efforts of all the emergency responders began to turn the tide early in the fight. Starting on Monday, March 28, less than 24 hours after the crisis began, we gave up no further ground in spite of the continued high winds and hot temperatures. Work continued over the next several days to establish full containment of the fire, and by Wednesday, March 30, Texas was able to begin shifting attention to other wildfires across the state.

Since containment of the Crittenburg and Flat fires, the Fort Hood Directorate of Emergency Services along with local, state and federal partners have continued collaboration. Even before we fully contained the fire, we began a series of after action reviews to review our processes and procedures. Representatives from all agencies came together to determine how best to make our combined efforts even more effective. That learning continues today.

Among the biggest lessons we gained from the March 2022 fire was the need to continue – and even accelerate – our ongoing wildfire mitigation efforts on Fort Hood. Since 2020, we have conducted more than 35,000 acres of prescribed burns to consume the brush and undergrowth that serves as potential fuel for wildfires. Additionally, we have improved more than 844 miles of firebreaks throughout the training area. But more is needed, and our team is already hard at work to set the conditions for a safe and sustainable reopening of our range complex. Training is what Fort Hood does as part of our obligations to the American People. We will never fall short of those obligations, and we will do so while doing everything possible to minimize future risk of wildfires.

When our need was great, Central Texas responded. Fort Hood is forever in your debt. The fantastic way in which we responded is the very definition of what makes this community special!

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