Farm Progress

Wildfires increase as drought persists

Jeffrey Stapper

March 20, 2009

3 Min Read

Recently it seems that not a day goes by without a wildfire being reported in the area, which leads me to believe that some basic fire prevention tips need to be reviewed. With drought conditions widespread, landowners should be thinking about mitigation, fuel management and prescribed burning.

AgriLife Extension range management and beef cattle specialists tell us that landowners need to think about fuel management — shred it, graze it, burn it down — to keep from getting in a situation where fire can do significant damage.

Removing fuel is important, Whether it’s a welding spark, thrown cigarette or hot box on a railroad, if the fuel is not there, the fire won’t have a chance to grow and spread.

The Texas Forest Service has urged citizens across the state to be aware of heightened wildfire danger due to low pressure fronts that drop humidity levels and produce high winds.

The Forest Service Predictive Services Department forecasts that through the month of February, fuels, such as grasses and trees, are expected to remain critically dry. Some tools that landowners can use to mitigate and lower the risk are:

1. Make sure the roadside ditches are mowed adequately along their property line. Contact the highway department if necessary. Prescribed burning can be an option to manage brush and high grasses, where burn bans are not in effect. The Forest Service has an updated list of counties enacting burn bans. Most of Texas now has a burn ban in effect, including Nueces County.

2. Establish fuel breaks (fire lanes) along fences, roadways and between buildings and fields.

3. When welding, be sure the work area is free of grass and debris, and have a spotter and a water source handy.

Wildfire can strike home if you have not taken some steps to protect your house and property. The actions and precautions listed below are designed to help you prepare your home and lessen the threat of wildland fire damage to you and your property:

1. LPG tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep area around the tank clear of flammable vegetation.

2. Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.

3. All combustibles such as firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, stacked lumber, etc. should be kept away from structures.

4. Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid build-up of flammable materials such as leaves and other debris.

5. Remove branches from trees to a height of 15 feet or more.

6. In rural areas, clear a fuel break of at least three times the fuel length around all structures.

7. Have fire tools handy such as: a ladder long enough to reach your roof, shovel, rake, and a bucket or two for water.

8. Place connected garden hoses at all sides of your home for emergency use.

9. Assure that you and your family know all emergency exits from your home.

10. Assure that you and your family know all emergency exits from your neighborhood.

More information about protecting against and preventing wildfires can be found at The Texas Extension Disaster Education Network.

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