Texas TSA officer doubles as volunteer fire chief

Wednesday, January 8, 2020
TSO - Fire Chief Picture

Lance Wood is making it his mission to serve and protect the general public. Wood is a lead TSA officer at Jack Brooks Regional Airport (BPT), a small airport in Nederland, Texas – about 80 miles from Houston – where he’s safeguarded passengers for 17 years.

If that’s not enough, Wood is the chief of the Jefferson County Water District No. 10 Volunteer Fire Department. He’s been a volunteer firefighter for more than two decades.

He said he decided to become a firefighter after he reported an RV trailer fire and watched volunteer firefighters work together as a team to extinguish the blaze.

“I am either at the fire station or the airport,” Wood said. “Only day I have off is Sunday.”

Wood spends several hours at the fire station each week doing paperwork and responds to about five fire incidents a week. He said he loves volunteering.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” said Wood, “and the people around you appreciate it, because if not for you, who would respond when they dial 911?”

Chemical plant fire

TSO Lance Wood

Just over a month ago, Wood and several of his fire and TSA team members were impacted by a huge blaze at a large chemical plant just four miles from BPT.

“The TPC Group exploded, and the shockwave blew out doors and windows a mile away,” Wood described. “As chief of my fire department, I had to coordinate who responded and who stayed, which was not an easy decision for that 24-hour period. The county issued a four-mile mandatory evacuation, and some of the employees at BPT had to evacuate. One of them would have been me, but I am not allowed to evacuate because of my work on the fire department. I went to the airport so [my TSA team] would not be understaffed.”

In response to the large fire, Assistant Federal Security Director (FSD) Bill Byrne said FSD Hector Vela dispatched a support team to cover the airport operation so impacted employees could focus on their safety and their families. “The TSA employees closely supported one another throughout this event, staying in close contact with one another and the airport operation,” said Byrne.

When asked to compare firefighting work with protecting the traveling public through his work at TSA, Wood said, “They’re very similar. I’m serving and helping protect the general public. It feels good to give and be rewarded at the same time.”

As a firefighter, Wood risks his life for free to save strangers and their property, but he said, “When I get paid with a ‘thank you,’ that is the most rewarding feeling.”

If you are looking for a way to help your community, Wood said, “Volunteer somewhere. It might not be a fire department but could be a church, the Red Cross and many other places. Volunteer fire departments across the country are having recruitment and retention problems, so if you or someone you know might like to be a volunteer firefighter, please visit a local volunteer fire department.”