MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX– Multiple Montgomery County fire departments deployed firefighters and apparatuses around 4 a.m. Friday to assist with catastrophic flooding occurring in the Texas panhandle. The departments are part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS), which uses state funds to train and mobilize firefighters from all over Texas to assist departments overwhelmed because of natural disasters such as flooding or wildfires. The smaller and typically drier counties in the panhandle have been inundated by rain in recent weeks, and their emergency crews and personnel overwhelmed.
Amarillo had the sixth highest rainfall on total for the month of May 2023, at 7.36 inches. To put that into perspective, Amarillo’s average yearly rainfall is only 19.71 inches. Local crews were bound for Childress, which is southeast of Amarillo. Many area roads had been closed for days because of flooding, but reopened just yesterday. Rain had slowed, but more rain in the forecast, according to the National Weather Service.
Area departments participating in the effort include Porter Fire Department, Stafford Fire Department, North Montgomery County Fire Department (Willis), New Waverly Fire Department, Eastex Fire Department, South Montgomery County Fire Department (The Woodlands), Humble Fire Department, and Timberlakes Volunteer Fire Department. They are part of “Strike Team 115” and will be assisting with rescues and evacuation.
Porter Fire Chief Carter Johnson said his department sent two firefighters and their high-water rescue apparatus. Chief Johnson, who also serves as TIFMAS Deputy State Coordinator, said the State of Texas picks up the tab for these mutual aid efforts when a disaster strikes, so that departments can remain fully staffed without impacting their budget.
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott issued a statement Friday announcing he had instructed the Texas Department of Emergency Management to provide resources to the affected area.
“With Northwest Texas experiencing significant flooding, the State of Texas is swiftly deploying flood response resources to help local emergency officials keep Texans safe,” Governor Abbott said.
Texas panhandle residents are praying the rainfall will end, with many forced to leave their flooded homes, or trapped in their homes surrounded by floodwater. Ironically, elsewhere in Texas, residents are praying for the rain to begin and hoping their neighbors are paying attention. As of Friday, 55 Texas counties had burn bans in place because conditions remained dry for so long it created dangerous conditions where wildfires could easily begin and quickly spread.
Chief Johnson and the families of all the firefighters assisting flood victims ask everyone who prays to remember the victims and first responders dealing with the current disaster in the Texas panhandle.