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McDonald Observatory

McDonald ObservatoryThe folks that live at the McDonald Observatory outside of Fort Davis, Texas realized there was a problem in early 2004, following the 2003 wildfire season in California. At that time, they decided to take a proactive approach. They contacted the Texas Forest Service with the intention of creating a plan to protect their homes and the $200 million observatory that sits on the two mountain peaks above the homes. The Regional Fire Coordinator worked with them. Together, they applied for---and received---a grant to mitigate the extremely heavy concentrations of juniper and pinion that covered the area. The Texas Forest Service provided a crew with the grant money and with the help of the local fire department began a thinning project along all roads, homes, and observatories within the area. This project took about eight months to complete and a cost of $200,000.

McDonald ObservatoryThe Observatory has since received approval from the University of Texas to purchase a wildland engine to protect the area against small brush and grass fires. This is true cooperation between the University of Texas and Texas A&M University-the engine will be painted University of Texas burnt orange and will have a Texas Forest Service/Texas A&M sign in it.

McDonald ObservatoryMitigation will continue in and around the homes. A line item in the University of Texas budget provides for the replacement of cedar shake siding with "hardy" plank siding and replacing foam roofs with metal roofs. The project will take several years at a cost of $250,000 a year. The University of Texas is also hiring two people to conduct local wildfire mitigation and other wildfire projects in the area.

Click here to visit the McDonald Observatory site or click here to visit the University of Texas website's fire section.