Special to the Reporter

AUSTIN -- Texas Forest Service wants to teach residents how to better protect their homes from wildfires – a message they’re emphasizing during Wildfire Awareness Week, which kicks off Monday.

Wildfires destroyed almost 3,000 Texas homes last year and burned thousands of acres, but no homes, in Somervell County.

But there are things homeowners can do to better protect themselves in the future.

The new products from Texas Forest Service detail how to implement fire-resistant landscaping practices, create “defensible space” around a home, eliminate dead vegetation and use safe construction materials.

In addition to offering information about protecting homes and property, Texas Forest Service wants to raise awareness about the potential dangers of outdoor activities that can create a spark – such as debris burning, outdoor campfires, welding and tossed cigarettes. About 90 percent of wildfires in Texas are human caused.

“Preventing wildfires is a community responsibility,” said Justice Jones, wildland urban interface and fire prevention program coordinator for Texas Forest Service. “We want to engage all Texans and work together toward building a safer place for all of us to live.”

The following products can be downloaded from the Texas Forest Service website to guide homeowners in protecting their property. Visit the Wildland Urban Interface page under the Fire and Emergency Response/Mitigation tab at http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu

Be Embers Aware – A high-intensity fire can produce a virtual blizzard of embers. Some can travel more than a mile before landing. They can get into the smallest places and easily start a fire that can burn down an entire home. This information can guide you on how to protect your home from embers.

Fire-Resistant Materials – A home located within the wildland urban interface may be at risk in the event of a wildfire. However, there are precautions that a homeowner can take to reduce a home’s risk. It begins by learning what parts of your home might burn if exposed to direct flame contact, radiant heat or embers.

Firewise Landscaping – This document will help Texas landowners choose the “right plant for the right place” by explaining fire-resistant plant characteristics. The first 30 feet from your home in all directions is called your defensible space. Maintaining defensible space around your home is key to improving your home’s chance of surviving a wildfire.

Vegetation Management – A variety of treatments are described that can be applied on an individual’s property or on a larger scale to protect a subdivision or community. Simple treatment can dramatically reduce the spread and intensity of wildfire. Reducing the density of fuel by thinning and trimming trees and removing ladder fuels helps keep the fire on the ground, increasing the chances for firefighters to control the fire.

Ready Set Go and Firewise communities – these programs teach individuals who live in high-risk wildfire areas and the wildland urban-interface how to best prepare themselves and their properties against fire threats.