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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fire Management Program is responsible for protecting and restoring lands in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Pacific Islands territories.

Incident Management Team Assists with Hurricane

October 2008

Six days after Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island, Texas, several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees serving on the Southern Area Type 2 Incident Management Team were called to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of an Infrastructure Assessment Task Force, assessing the impact to residents of the city of Galveston.

The assignment to support FEMA was very different from those the team usually undertakes managing large fires, such as in Virginia and North Carolina earlier in the year. Team Incident Commander Tony Wilder, Fire Management Officer at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, and team members had to solve atypical problems as they arrived to the hurricane-devastated area. Communication and planning were critical elements as the team established their Incident Command Post with no services or conveniences at their disposal. 

Wilder and his team members worked with utility professionals to conduct the infrastructure assessment, including security, water, energy, accessibility and telecommunications for Galveston.  They acquired information by any means possible about the status and condition of these services. Then they were tasked to produce a 72-hour report to outline their findings. 

Wilder personally identified with the residents of the area because he lost his home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  “What this assessment doesn’t show” he said, “is the human element.”

The team also worked extensively with local elected officials and media outlets to keep citizens of the area informed on the situation. In addition to Wilder, six other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees from Service Regions 2, 5, 4, and 6 worked on the team in Texas as part of the post-hurricane assessment group c.  Their assignment lasted for 13 days.

A home in the village prior to applying Firewise principles to reduce the threat of fire moving from the natural area around the home to the home itself.
A home after thinning vegetation with Firewise techniques to increase its odds of surviving during a wildfire event.
Galveston’s Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas listens to Incident Commander Tony Wilder explain the rapid assessment his team conducted.
Incident Commander Tony Wilder, Fire Management Officer at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, briefs his incident management team on FEMA’s red yellow green format for the rapid assessment.

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