News Roundup: Texas Firefighters Will Help Put Out California Wildfires

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The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

More than 200 Texas firefighters are expected to arrive in California Tuesday night to help the state confront devastating blazes.

What’s been dubbed the “Camp Fire” in Northern California has now become the deadliest in state history, claiming at least 42 lives. The Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles has left at least two people dead. That’s where personnel from Texas are expected to focus their efforts.

The Texas Instrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, or TIFMAS, is organizing this deployment. Their State Coordinator is Chief Keith Kiplinger of Nacogdoches. He explains how TIFMAS started.

“Several years ago the state established the Texas Instrastate Fire Mutual Aid System as a means for us to provide mutual aid between fire departments across Texas and so if there was a large event we could surge firefighters to the area that needed it, coming from local governments,” Kiplinger says.

Chief Kiplinger says TIFMAS had never sent people to fight fires outside of Texas until this past August.

“This year for the first time California reached out for help with the Carr Fire in Northern California and Texas was able to send about 25 engines and 97 firefighters to assist them at that time,” he says.

He says a number of the firefighters now heading to California fought the Carr Fire this summer, but many didn’t.

“And so this provides an excellent opportunity for them to go to California, learn the way things happen in California, experience some new terrain, some new weather, some new fire behavior, and bring that experience back to Texas to their hometown where they can provide a higher level of service to the citizens we serve every day,” Kiplinger says.

Fire departments across the state are sending personnel, including Austin, Amarillo, Fort Worth, and Galveston. Chief Kiplinger says all costs associated with sending firefighters out-of-state will be reimbursed by California.

Texas won’t be home to Amazon’s HQ2. The company officially announced Tuesday what’s already been widely reported – it’s splitting HQ2 into new outposts in Arlington, Virginia and New York City.

Both Austin and Dallas had made the shortlist for Amazon’s second headquarters at the beginning of this year. Amazon’s decision to divide the HQ2 site into two offices makes some think this may not be the end of expansion for the company.

Richard Florida, an economist and professor at the University of Toronto, told KUT News that Amazon has used the HQ2 contest to crowdsource data on all the finalist cities.

“So, I think we could see more. A Latin American headquarters in Miami,” Florida says. “A logistics and distribution facility in Indianapolis or Columbus. A big research hub in Austin or Boston. An artificial intelligence or self-driving truck center in Pittsburgh.”

The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce reacted in a statement, noting Amazon is already a major employer in the area. Thanks in part to its acquisition of Whole Foods last year, Amazon is already the sixth largest private employer in Austin, without HQ2.

The Dallas Regional Chamber also struck a positive tone.

CEO and President Dale Petroskey said “Make no mistake, this has been a ‘win’ for our region regardless of outcome.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is the new chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association. The goal of the group is to elect Republicans to the office of state attorney general. More than half of the attorneys general in the country are members of the GOP.