Last year more than 16,000 emergency responders from all 50 states lent a hand during the devastating Texas wildfire season. Now, Texas has a chance to return the favor.

Fifteen emergency responders – including 11 from Texas Forest Service – will head to New Mexico this weekend to aid in recovery efforts on the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso. This is the first deployment under the Emergency Interstate Response Support Plan, an agreement among five states within FEMA Region VI to provide aid in a disaster.

“Following the fire season we had last year, this is an opportunity for Texas to give back to those who helped us,” said Bob Koenig, chief response training coordinator for Texas Forest Service.

Assembled by Koenig, the team of responders will be charged with organizing community meetings, providing information to the public, maintaining relationships with landowners and local government officials, documenting damage assessment information and developing a safety plan for evacuated residents returning to their homes. The team also will coordinate lodging, medical and pet needs, and help draft plans for volunteer contributions and debris management.

The Little Bear Fire ignited on June 4 and has burned almost 38,000 acres. Fire officials said Friday morning it was 45 percent contained.

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