TEXAS COMMUNITIES FACE NEW WILDFIRE THREATS
AUSTIN, Texas - More than 80 percent of wildfires in Texas now strike within two miles of suburban communities. What's more, the desire to live closer to nature has driven many Texans out of major cities and into areas where neighborhoods meet and mix with undeveloped, natural landscapes.
In these areas, called the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), homes press against and sometimes blend with wild expanses of explosively flammable plants, shrubs and trees.
Texans living in the WUI often enjoy the luxuries associated with wildland living, including beautiful views and a close proximity to wildlife and the outdoors. However, with this move to the WUI come new and dangerous fire risks.
With the state's relentless drought conditions forecast to continue well into next year, it is important that Texans be aware of wildfire vulnerabilities in their area, and that they take steps to protect their homes and families - creating safer, stronger and smarter communities that are ready in the event of a wildfire.
Now, more than ever, is the time to educate Texans and build more "firewise" communities, say officials with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Living in the Wildland Urban Interface is much like living in a floodplain," said Kevin L. Hannes, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for two wildfire recovery missions in Texas. "Texans should know what risks exist related to their location and they should adopt safety measures to protect their families and their homes."
TDEM and FEMA encourage homeowners and residents to stay up-to-date with fire situations in their area and take necessary precautions to prepare for and mitigate against the risk of future wildfires.
Here are five helpful mitigation tips to protect homes from wildfires:
1. Wooden fences and decks act like a fuse during a wildfire. Consider replacing them with less combustible material.
2. Fine fuels like dead grass and leaves can act as kindling. Remove them from the area directly around your home.
3. Embers are the primary source of home ignition. Make sure vents are adequately screened to prevent access.
4. Trim all the dead branches from trees in the yard and prune low hanging limbs to prevent fire from climbing to the crowns of the trees.
5. Replace the combustible components of homes with less flammable material like masonry or stone. Use fire-resistant roofing material, such as ceramic or slate tile, or standing-seam metal roofing.
Following are links to valuable information:
TDEM Wildfire Awareness - www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/threatawareness/pio_wildfire_awareness.htm
Texas Forest Service -txforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=12888 and http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/article.aspx?id=12296
Texas Interagency Coordination Center - ticc.tamu.edu/
The National Interagency Fire Center - www.nifc.gov/
FEMA offers wildfire safety tips and preparedness plans at www.ready.gov/be-informed.
Furthermore, the National Fire Protection Association's Firewise Communities program is a great initiative that encourages homeowners, community leaders and local emergency management officials to work together and take action to protect people and property from wildfires. For more information on Firewise, visit www.firewise.org.