When a dangerous wildfire ignites in the Lone Star State, experts with Texas A&M Forest Service most likely saw it coming – and provided intelligence to assist emergency responders.
The agency’s Predictive Services Department has just eight employees, whose responsibilities include tracking weather and emerging or persistent areas of dryness that could combine to increase fire potential. The information they provide is used to determine where fire suppression resources and personnel are needed, ultimately securing the safety of residents throughout the state.
Brad Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service’s only fire behavior analyst, has studied fire behavior since 2000 and is considered a leader in his field. A trained firefighter and forester, Smith joined Texas A&M Forest Service after graduating from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1981.
He is recognized among colleagues for his ability to pinpoint factors that could lead to increased fire activity and hone in on the particular area where an ignition could occur – sometimes days in advance.
“The skill set that Brad has attained over the past few years has allowed him to reach the highest levels of wildland fire analysis capabilities,” said Tom Spencer, Predictive Services department head and Smith’s supervisor. “His accomplishments are evidenced by the demand for his skills at the national, regional and state levels where accurate wildland fire and fuels analysis is needed.”
Smith continually tracks weather and drought conditions across the state, looking for areas that have the potential to support significant fire activity. Identifying areas at risk for significant fire occurrence allows the agency’s incident response team to strategically place personnel and resources to meet the threats. Additionally, Texas A&M Forest Service personnel often use Smith’s findings to raise awareness with the media, the public and partnering agencies.
“Brad is a true force multiplier and someone you want on your team during the extended fire seasons the state has been going through,” Spencer said. “His actions make a difference, and the state is fortunate to have him in service.”
Texas A&M Forest Service’s Predictive Services team provides a suite of products, including a daily fire danger forecast map, that the public can monitor.