A wildfire can be a dangerous force of nature that will, at times, destroy anything in its path. But you can take measures to help protect your home.
During Fire Prevention Week, observed nationwide Oct. 9-15, residents are encouraged not only to learn how to prevent wildfires from happening, but also prepare their homes and communities for when one does ignite.
More than 2,800 homes have been destroyed since Texas wildfire season began in mid-November 2010.
Studies have shown that taking proactive measures to prepare a home for wildfire can significantly increase the likelihood it will survive. More than 36,000 homes have been saved this fire season - many due to homeowners who implemented Firewise landscaping practices.
One of the most important Firewise concepts is defensible space, a man-made buffer zone between your home and the surrounding wildland. Under normal conditions, this defensible space acts as a buffer that can slow or halt the spread of wildfire.
In this 30-foot zone around your home, the following practices should be implemented:
Remove all dead or dying vegetation.
Trim tree canopies regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from structures and other trees.
Remove leaf litter (dry leaves and pine needles) from yard, roof and rain gutters.
Relocate wood piles and other combustible materials.
Remove combustible material and vegetation from around and under decks.
Remove or prune vegetation near windows.
Remove “ladder fuels” (low-level vegetation that allows a fire to spread from the ground to the tree canopy). Create a separation between low-level vegetation and tree branches.
In the 30 to 100 feet of space surrounding your home, you can minimize the chance of wildfire jumping from plant to plant by removing dead material and removing or thinning vegetation. The minimum space between vegetation should be three times the dimension of the plant.
Because of the severe drought conditions in Texas, seemingly harmless activities have been causing wildfires that ignite with just a small spark. Some prevention tips include:
Avoid overloading extension cords or electrical outlets. Replace damaged electrical cords and use extension cords for temporary wiring only.
Never leave food cooking on a stove unattended.
Store flammable liquids in outbuildings away from gas water heaters and other ignition sources.
Make sure you have smoke detectors installed, replace batteries with each time change and regularly check to make sure detectors are working.
Keep flammable materials away from ignition sources, such as space heaters or candles.
Establish wide control lines around burn receptacles and brush piles to help keep possible flying embers from reaching flammable vegetation.
Dispose of smoking materials in vehicle ash trays to help prevent roadside wildfires.
Avoid driving or parking in tall, dry grass.
Build campfires in open, level spots away from trees and overhanging branches. Keep fires small and extinguish them cold to the touch before leaving.
Protect your family and home by learning about Ready, Set, Go! and Firewise Communities.