Pantex Fire Department response to wildfires reveals benefit of mutual aid

  • Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2024, 8:52 am

  Pantex firefighters respond to local wildfires under mutual aid agreement.
Pantex firefighters respond to local wildfires under mutual aid agreement.

Wildfires are an unpredictable threat that can occur with little warning and leave massive damage behind. To combat wildfires and other emergencies, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Pantex Fire Department (PXFD) have established vital mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities. During emergencies, these agreements effectively multiply and strategically direct resources to the affected fire departments, enabling them to surpass their own response capabilities.

PXFD is exceptionally fortunate to have a fully staffed, paid fire department capable of immediate deployment to assist our mutual aid partners at any hour, day or night—a luxury not afforded to the volunteers we support,” said PXFD Captain Joshua B. said. “These agreements not only enable our highly trained members to continually perfect their skills, but also facilitate their crucial support for the surrounding communities.”

The significance of these mutual aid agreements with Carson, Armstrong, Hutchinson, and Potter counties was evident in recent weeks amid the rise of wildfire activity. PXFD rapidly responded to a call for mutual aid to fight the Windy Deuce Fire—a significant fire north of Pantex—alongside the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which became the largest wildland fire in Texas history. This devastating fire consumed over a million acres, equivalent to nearly 2,000 square miles—an area surpassing the entirety of Delaware.

“Pantex employees live in each of these counties, adding personal significance to our emergency responses,” Captain B. said. “Numerous times, we’ve found ourselves extending aid to Pantexans’ family members, or even our own, either through medical assistance, or emergency response to car accidents or house fires.”

During the PXFD deployment to fight the Windy Deuce Fire, the firefighters found themselves patrolling one of the hardest-hit areas. Amid their duties, they even provided vital assistance to the parents of one of the Pantex fire captains; the parents faced evacuation and feared the loss of their home and livestock.

“The PXFD firefighters prevented the impinging fire from reaching their residence and contained the fire’s spread to the exterior of the home,” Captain B. said. “To this family and many others, PXFD and its members are a godsend.”

The “mutual” part of the agreement means both parties can receive aid. The Windy Deuce Fire got uncomfortably close to the Pantex site, but thanks to changes in weather conditions, the actions of the Pantex response team, and mutual aid partners from neighboring communities, the fire never reached the site boundary.

“We’re not just responders; the PXFD seeks to be an integral part of the communities surrounding Pantex,” said Captain B. “Whether it’s you, your family, or our neighbors in need, PXFD will respond when called upon.”