When a team of 39 Texans was requested for the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort in New York, many Lone Star State Incident Management Team members seized the opportunity to learn from their neighbors and lend a helping hand.
One such team member is Les Rogers, Texas A&M Forest Service’s chief law enforcement officer and a longtime firefighter.
While attending West Texas State University several years ago, Rogers worked for the Canyon Fire Department and later was recruited to go through the law enforcement academy. During an arson outbreak in 1997, Texas A&M Forest Service sent a team to Canyon for an investigation. Paul Hannemann, who was serving at the time as a TFS regional fire coordinator, recruited Rogers to join the state agency.
Hannemann is now serving as incident commander on the New York recovery assignment, and Rogers is his deputy IC, slated to take over command when Hannemann leaves this weekend for another commitment.
Rogers has served as incident commander on numerous wildfires and on hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana, but he’s never been to New York. His previous experiences on hurricanes were in rural communities – a different way of life than what the team is seeing in the Big Apple.
“On the other hurricanes, they basically had no government because everybody left,” Rogers said. “Working up here, it’s so large in scope, we have to make sure everybody knows what we’re doing. I really like this from a public service standpoint, but also every time I go out, I learn something. We can use this experience in Texas.”
For example, he explained, Texas hurricane response typically occurs during balmy summer conditions.
“We always focus on power restoration, food, water and ice,” Rogers said. “There’s a whole new element here of thinking about cold weather. We don’t associate that with hurricanes in Texas. This could help us in planning for unusual conditions, even a contingency plan for extremely hot weather.”
Rogers said he hopes to accomplish a feeling of success among all the team members at the end of the assignment.
“I’d like to leave with a sense that we’ve done a good job, that we’ve helped, that everybody’s grown personally and professionally,” he said.