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Texas a safer place thanks to Texas A&M Forest Service employee

COLLEGE STATION, January 9, 2014— Longtime Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) employee Lee McNeely was honored today with a Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for his extensive work in protecting Texas from wildfires - before and after they occur.

McNeely is a Wildland Urban Interface Specialist with TFS and has served with the agency for more than three decades. His recognition is the highest honor given by Texas A&M AgriLife to personnel and was presented today during the annual Texas AgriLife Conference.

“Lee certainly deserves this award,” TFS Mitigation and Prevention Department Head Bruce Woods, said. “His leadership, vision and commitment to serve have impacted the state and opened up opportunities for at-risk Texas communities to receive wildfire mitigation grants.”

Given out annually, the Vice Chancellor’s awards are designed to recognize great achievements made by Texas A&M AgriLife employees. Thirty-one awards were presented during this year’s conference.

TFS Director Tom Boggus praised McNeely for his long-standing service, his commitment to finding solutions and making Texas a safer place. Boggus noted that there was no one better at assisting Texans through work with state and local governments.

“Lee is persistent and, yet, always positive.  He understands the wildfire risks homeowners, sub-divisions, and communities are facing often before they do and will not rest until someone listens and begins to work towards reducing that risk,” Boggus said. “He rallies people together to make a positive and lasting difference in their lives. His work has made Texas a safer place to work, live and play and will continue to impact lives for years to come.”

McNeely has been instrumental in raising the awareness that wildfires pose the fourth highest natural hazard statewide – following only hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

McNeely has worked extensively with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bring about wildfire preparedness updates to state and local hazard mitigation action plans and has helped streamline the grant assistance process for communities.

“Lee’s advocating for improved wildfire mitigation planning has earned him and TFS, a reputation as the go to person and agency for wildfire mitigation planning,” Woods wrote in an award nomination letter. “And more importantly has made it easier for counties and cities to navigate the mitigation grant process.”

McNeely’s career highlights include response to three of the ten largest wildfires in Texas during the 2011 wildfire season. He has helped with assignments in Kentucky, Tennessee, and technical assistance to the Mexican government in 1998 as well as all-hazard response during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. McNeely also was instrumental in the development of the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal.

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