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Brooks Lake

Brooks LakeThe communities located within Brooks Lake and Country Trails Estates comprise about one thousand acres in a heavily wooded, unincorporated section of southeast Wood County, Texas. Having been developed in 1969 and 1981 respectively, as weekend and gaming retreats, they lacked proper planning as it related to emergency responder access and safety, emergency egress and resources to fight wildfire. Over the past forty years they have evolved into full-time residential communities for nearly one hundred households and forty frequently used weekend retreats, with an average population of three hundred. The communities had no water sources with which to battle fires except for a few draft points at natural water bodies, single-lane constricted roads that terminated at dead-ends over a mile in length with no secondary emergency egress, no early warning system for fire or other emergency and no centralized authority to develop an emergency response and evacuation plan. Additionally, years of neglect of the surrounding forest has created a severe wildfire hazard due to unmitigated undergrowth and dead fuel accumulation on the forest floor.

Brooks LakeAs the drought and resulting wildfire potential began to intensify across Texas in 2005, a group of concerned residents began planning a proactive approach to community wildfire safety. They first contacted the Texas Forest Service. That organization focused them on the national Firewise Communities/USA program, a template for wildfire mitigation planning for smaller communities.

The Brooks Lake Area Firewise Initiative asked the Texas Forest Service and the Holly Lake Volunteer Fire Department to assist them in developing a Community Risk Assessment. It was completed in April 2005. After evaluation of the risk assessment, a Firewise team was formed on January 7th, 2006 with the goal of implementing the following proactive wildfire mitigation plan:

  1. Establish a Texas nonprofit corporation to effect the plan.
  2. Secure funds to install twenty-one pressurized fire department connections, placing them so that all homes are within five hundred feet from one.
  3. Eliminate constrictions along the roadways to allow safe access by emergency vehicles by trimming and removing trees.
  4. Create secondary emergency egress routes from the dead-end roads.
  5. Create an emergency response and evacuation plan, including assistance for the elderly and impaired.
  6. Erect an early warning siren, operated by the fire department, for fire evacuation and tornado warning.
  7. Perform individual lot mitigation evaluations. Assist those needing help in conducting fire mitigation modifications.
  8. Evaluate mitigation options for the excess and dead fuel accumulations in the surrounding forest.

Brooks LakeSince 7 January, 2006 the Brooks Lake Area Firewise Initiative has formed the corporation, removed constrictions along the roadways with assistance from a Texas Forest Service Partner Empowerment Initiative Grant, brought the emergency warning siren online, begun clearing the emergency egress routes, developed the emergency response and evacuation plan, evaluated 25% of the individual lots and initiated the forest management study. In addition, it has raised the necessary funds, through private contributions, to implement the plan. The community has invested nearly 1,200 hours of volunteer time in the effort.