The Heart of Texas team — more commonly referred to as the HOT Task Force — consists of four dozers, one engine and eight wildland firefighters. It was stationed in the Killeen-McGregor area last year to better support local fire departments.
The other four task forces are in Smithville, Fredericksburg, Merkel and Fort Stockton.
“We are here to protect Texans, but we are also here to help Texans help themselves,” said Tom Boggus, agency director and state forester for Texas A&M Forest Service.
Texas A&M Forest Service established task forces in 2009 after receiving approval from the 81st Legislature. The move was designed to create nimble contingents of firefighting resources that would be strategically located for incident response.
The agency can shift the teams throughout the state, staging them where dangerous fire weather conditions are predicted. The ability to preposition resources in at-risk areas decreases response times, which leads to fewer homes destroyed and lives lost.
“Stationing resources in strategic places enables rapid response and saves lives and property,” said Paul Hannemann, Incident Response department head and chief regional fire coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service.
Among the state and local dignitaries attending the open house was State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, whose district includes Killeen. He heralded the agency for its work both statewide and in his district.
“We’ve got to work on participating together, planning carefully and spending wisely,” Aycock said. “TFS does a good job of that.”
When not responding to wildfires, members of the HOT Task Force work on prevention and mitigation projects, establishing fire breaks around select structures, removing potentially-dangerous dead vegetation and presenting fire prevention programs to the public.
They also work with local fire departments, helping them get grant funding for needed equipment and training.