The old saying “when it rains, it pours,” infers that there’s usually been too much of a bad thing. Australia has certainly experienced more than their share of weather-related happenings: a cyclone on the eastern coast, and flooding from drenching rains in Queensland and southern Victoria. Now, in Perth, in Western Australia, wildfires are destroying homes, forcing many to evacuate. February is the last month of summer in that country, bringing the height of monsoon season, in addition to being the riskiest time for wildfires.
The United States has already begun to experience wildfires in several areas of the country: from California, eastern New Mexico, western Texas and the panhandle of Texas, to the Carolinas and the east Coast. Because brisk winds accompany warmer days, red flag warnings and fire danger warnings are commonplace, as some areas are beginning to see a gradual warmup. Spring and warmer temperatures cause an earlier snowmelt in the mountainous areas, leaving the vicinities dryer overall, creating a longer season in which a fire can start. Don’t let your home and property become fuel for a wildfire. We want to share these suggestions from the Texas Forest Service about steps you can take to reduce your risk for damage from wildfire:
- Keep leaves and other debris cleared from gutters, eaves, roof, porches and decks. They can cause embers that can ignite your home.
- Clear vegetation around your home at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
- Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Check with your state forestry agency for information.
- Dispose of debris and lawn cuttings quickly.
- Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including sheds and garages. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck, or porch.
- Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire; keep your lawn hydrated and maintained.
- Remove branches from trees to a height of 15’ or more. Wildfire can spread to tree-tops. Be sure the lowest branches are 6’ to 10’ high.
- LPG tanks should be far enough from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep area around tank clear of flammable vegetation.
- Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.
- Establish fuel breaks along roadways and buildings and fields or woodlands, if you live in a rural area.
- Any combustibles – firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, and stacked lumber should be kept away from all structures.
- Have fire tools handy, such as: shovel, rake and buckets for water, as well as a ladder tall enough to reach your roof.
- Keep water hoses connected on all sides of your home for emergency use.
- Be certain that you and your family know all emergency exits from your home and neighborhood.
These are excellent ideas to help keep the exteriors of our homes less susceptible, in case of any type of fire; even those who don’t live in an area of a possible wildfire.
I have seen first-hand the devastation wildfires can cause. A few years ago, a small community and its’ surrounding area were almost totally wiped out because of a wildfire. Persons lost their homes and everything in them. Because of extremely dry, windy conditions, wildfires were happening in many parts of Texas, all around the same time, (in the spring), causing not only the loss of homes, but churches and businesses. Cattle and wild animals were trapped inside fenced pastures, with no way to get out.
If additional senseless and potentially deadly wildfires are to be avoided, everyone must exercise extreme caution with all potential sources of wildfire ignition. Careless debris burning is one of the major causes of wildfires. First, and foremost, stay informed about wildfire danger levels and heed warnings and bans on outdoor burning. Check to see if weather changes are expected. Postpone outdoor burning until your area greens up, and check with your local fire department to determine if bans on outdoor burning have been lifted. If you decide to burn, have a water hose ready, and stay with all outdoor fires until they are completely out.
Source: Texas Forest Service