Most wildland fires in Texas are preventable—over 90% are caused by people
Most wildland fires in Texas occur within 2 miles of a community
On Tuesday, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office announced a new tool to help protect communities from the risk of wildland fires. Developed collaboratively with the Texas Forest Service, local fire departments, and other community leaders, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is an information tool designed to identify ways to reduce wildland fire risk across the county.
Final approval of the Harris County plan by the Texas Forest Service is expected later this month. Once final approval occurs, Harris County will join four other counties and 94 communities that have completed a CWPP with assistance from the Texas Forest Service.
“The highest risk of a wildland fire is in an emerging community located in the Wildland Urban Interface”, says Fire Marshal Mike Montgomery. “These communities are in the areas of recent growth where farm land or forest has been developed for residential neighborhoods or subdivisions.”
Most of these WUI communities are located in the northern half of the county, but wildfires can occur anywhere there is open space or timber. Keys action identified in the Harris County CWPP include increasing public awareness and education, performing community risk assessments, and identifying potential fuel reduction projects.
“Some ways to increase the safety of your home and family are easy to do and don’t cost much”, says Montgomery. “These include cleaning gutters regularly and creating a defensive space around your home by removing combustibles within thirty feet. Other ideas include use of fire-resistant building materials and preparing an escape plan.”
Today, 249 of 254 Texas counties are under burn ban due to extraordinary drought conditions across the State. The ban includes Harris County and all surrounding counties except Chambers County. Since Harris County Commissioners enacted the burn ban on April 19, there have been about 1,700 outdoor fires in the unincorporated areas of the County, Montgomery said. These fires have burned over 13,400 acres and caused the evacuation of more than 200 residences. One structure was lost due to wildfire in June.
With few exceptions, such as backyard cooking, outdoor burning is illegal in Harris County. Violators may receive a citation and pay a fine of up to $500. Since the burn ban went into effect, the Fire Marshal’s Office has issued 27 Fire Marshal’s Orders and 70 citations.
For more information about this story, please contact Mr. Tom Petty with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office at 281-436-8034. Additional information about the CWPP program is available at the HCFMO website, www.hcfmo.net, or by contacting Mr. Justice Jones with the Texas Forest Service at 936-273-2261 or http://txforestservice.tamu.edu.