Farm and ranch families and citizens living in rural areas can help protect their property during potentially severe wildfire seasons by taking precautions before fires break out. Fire experts advise keeping grass mowed within 30 feet of your home. Minimize shrubbery near your home and prune lower branches of trees to help prevent surface fires from spreading into tree crowns.
Make sure the areas beneath utility lines are clear of brush, tall grass and trees to reduce the risk of losing utility services. Make sure driveways and roads onto your property are passable in all types of weather, and wide enough to allow access by heavy fire trucks. Other tips include:
* Clear vegetation between buildings and from nearby fields or woodlands to created a firebreak to stop, or to help restrict, the spread of a wildfire. Clear areas and create firebreaks along roadways to prevent roadside fires from spreading onto your property.
* Keep mufflers and spark arresters on agricultural equipment in proper working order.
* Monitor hay-baling operations closely. Check for hot bearings or hay caught in rollers. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
* Watch for sparks when using welding equipment. Remove vegetation from the work area or wet down vegetation prior and during welding operations. Keep water handy, and use a spotter to watch for sparks.
* Avoid driving or parking vehicles in grassy areas where tall, dry grass can come in contact with hot pollution control equipment under your vehicle.
* Postpone outdoor burning until vegetation in your area becomes green. Check with your local fire department or Sheriff’s office to determine if all restrictions on outdoor burning have been lifted.
WILDFIRE AWARENESS: OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
An estimated 90 percent of all Texas wildfires are caused by human activity. High winds and dry conditions can set the stage for potentially severe fires. The greatest single cause is when burning debris is not properly contained and sparks or burning trash blow into the air. Texans can help prevent fires if they:
* Be careful when pulling off a road or driving into a field. Hot catalytic converters can ignite vegetation.
* Avoid burning trash. Even a barrel covered with a screen can allow a spark to escape, igniting nearby vegetation.
* Do not use fireworks during holidays.
* If you smoke in your car, extinguish cigarettes in vehicle ashtrays.
Never toss a cigarette out of a car window, and don’t put cigarettes out on the ground.
* Keep a fire extinguisher and water handy when working outdoors with equipment that gets hot, or involves sparks, such as welding equipment. Water down outdoor work areas in advance if possible.
WILDFIRE AWARENESS: PREPAREDNESS AND EVACUATIONS
Wildfires pose a threat throughout Texas, especially when dry weather conditions combine with high winds and extreme temperatures. Whether you live near open grassland, in a suburban area on the edge of town or in a forested area, fire can threaten your home.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Choose a route away from the fire hazard and be alert to changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.
Create a defensible space - a circle of protection around your home.
* Thin weak, dead and overcrowded trees.
* Remove vegetation that can transport wildfires from the ground to the treetops.
* Limb trees to a height of 10-15 feet above the ground, if possible.
* Remove or chip remaining debris.
* Trim branches that extend over the eaves of your home or that are within 15 feet of a chimney.
* Clean debris from roofs and gutters.
* Relocate woodpiles to at least 30 feet from any building.
* Maintain a mowed greenbelt immediately around the house.
Additional precautions can be taken during the height of fire season:
* Dispose of leaves and debris with trash rather than open burning.
* Use only propane grills.
* Smoke inside a building or vehicle [using ashtray]
* Use caution with power tools and lawnmowers - don’t park or idle hot equipment in dry grass.
When weather conditions make wildfires more likely in your area, prepare by taking the following conditions:
* Keep firefighting tools handy, such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and buckets.
* Place connected garden hoses on all sides of the house for emergency use.
* Know all emergency exits from your house.
* Learn all routes leading out of your neighborhood.
As fires actually approach, take the following actions:
* Park your vehicle facing the direction of escape.
* Shut off gas at the meter. Only a qualified professional can safely turn the gas back on.
* Turn off propane tanks.
* Place combustible patio furniture inside.
* Seal vents with pre-cut plywood or commercial seals.
* Wet down or remove shrubs within 15 feet of your residence.
* Place lawn sprinklers on roof and near above-ground fuel tanks.
*Wet down the roof.
* Close windows, vents, doors, blinds and non-combustible window coverings. Remove flammable drapes and curtains.
* Close interior doors and windows to prevent drafts.