COLLEGE STATION – Known for his passion and leadership to others, Bruce Woods’ dedication to the fire service has earned him The Texas A&M University System 2023 Regents Fellow Service Award.
The Regents Fellow Service Award recognizes 12 Texas A&M University System employees who have made extraordinary contributions to their agencies and the people of Texas.
Starting his career in fire response more than 40 years ago, Woods quickly developed into a strong leader, earning him more than eight state and national awards in recognition of his leadership in fire response, prevention, preparedness and mitigation.
Woods credits his high school summer baseball coach, Woody Sevinson, who was the fire chief of College Station at that time, for introducing him to the fire service. After Sevinson’s introduction and a presentation from Texas Engineering Extension Service, Woods knew that the fire service was his calling.
Woods began his career in public service as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the city of Bryan, Texas in 1980. After nine years of service with the city, Woods earned his first fire chief role at The Woodlands Fire Department, Inc, in The Woodlands, Texas. In this role, Woods served as a crucial advocate for the ability of fire department employees to be certified by the Texas Commission in Fire Protection, managed the construction of two new fire stations and completed more than $5 million in major capital improvement projects.
Following his service in The Woodlands, Woods took on the challenge of serving as the fire chief and emergency management coordinator for the city of Copperas Cove Fire Department. It was here that Woods helped modernize and improve the effectiveness of the department’s emergency management operations through the construction of Copperas Cove Fire Station No. 3 and the acquisition of new self-contained breathing apparatus.
Woods then joined Texas A&M Forest Service in 2003, serving as the Chief Fire Training Coordinator, leading fire training efforts and directing four Texas A&M Forest Service wildland fire academies.
Since 2007, Bruce has served as the Wildfire Mitigation and Prevention Department Head, becoming the first leader for the newly created department. Through this role, Woods oversees mitigation and fuels programs as well as the agency’s wildfire prevention campaigns.
In his service to Texas A&M Forest Service, Woods has enacted 12 progressive major fire prevention campaigns that have decreased human-caused wildfires by 40%. Woods also designed and managed the Texas Community Wildfire Protection Plan process that has been completed and adopted by 83 subdivisions across the state, impacting more than 10 million people.
Al Davis, Texas A&M Forest Service Director, said in a nomination letter for the award that Woods exemplifies the term “service” through his leadership and life’s commitment to serving the people of Texas.
Most notable in Woods’ time in leadership has been the development of his team and employees through fostering a positive mentoring environment for leadership building.
“He is a true leader in the fire service and continues to demonstrate his knowledge and willingness to participate in various functions which allow him to share his knowledge and positive influence on others,” wrote former State Firefighters’ & Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas Executive Director Chris Barron in support of Woods’ nomination.
On reflection of the most rewarding aspects of his career, Woods looks to his involvement in developing successful employees, instructing fire and incident training, his deployment on large incident responses as a member of Texas A&M Forest Service Lone Star Incident Management Team and applying strategic planning to create innovative proactive programs that directly help communities reduce the impact of fire.
“Under Bruce’s leadership, this group has helped further the agency’s mission and our key functions of building capacity of others and protecting lives and property,” wrote Davis.
Woods currently serves on numerous state and national committees including the Southern Group of State Foresters Wildland Urban Interface Council and the Wildland Fire Policy Committee sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The threat of the loss of life and damage posed by wildfires serves as a continuous motivation in Woods’ career as he works to implement successful wildfire mitigation and prevention programs, develop communication and planning strategies and empower his team.