Keep Your Home Safe From Wildfires
By David Crump
Central Texas has a high risk of wildfire. Don’t think forest fire; it’s dry grass and brush that are the potential fire danger in our immediate area around Austin and further west. Alternating wet and dry conditions first encourage strong growth followed by tall dry grass and heavy dry brush. Strong winds and a careless ember do the rest. Wildfires can happen year round in Austin but the winter is particularly dangerous. Grass & brush growth is tall from the summer growing time. Often this growth is dry from our August heat. Next, winter brings strong wind ahead of passing storm fronts. The parts of Austin, the so called “Urban / Rural Interface,” at the edge of town adjoining wild lands are at particular risk.
The pine forests east of Bastrop are our main area of risk for a forest fire. The huge Bastrop Complex Fire in September to October 2011 and the more recent Hidden Pines Fire north of Smithville in October 2015 are evidence of this risk.
Tips to help keep your house safe from Wildfire!
- Keep the area near your house clear of tall grass and brush – at least 50 feet on all sides.
- Trim tree branches at least 15 feet off the ground. You want to keep a grassfire from climbing into your trees.
- Remove clutter from around your house particularly combustible materials such as scrape wood.
- Don’t block firefighter access. Make sure that fire trucks and firefighters can get around your house.
- Keep plants, trees and grass near your house healthy and watered.
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees by selecting plants that are drought tolerant and have high moisture content. Cedar and juniper trees are highly flammable and should be cleared from near your house.
- Mow grass, rake leaves and remove dead branches to reduce flammable vegetation debris.
- Stack firewood well away from your house.
- Clear at least a 10-foot area around propane tanks.
- Make sure that your house is clearly marked by having your address clearly displayed on all driveway entrances. You want the firefighters to find your house.
- Make sure that any area under a deck is clear of flammable materials.
- Use non-combustible materials when possible. Example would be masonry garden edging instead of landscape timbers.
Help Prevent Wildfires
- Extinguish all smoking materials in proper receptacles.
- Don’t park cars on dry grass (heat from hot exhaust systems can start a fire).
- Be sure that all chimneys are well maintained and have proper spark screens installed.
- If you intend to burn debris, follow all local outdoor burning ordinances for your area to properly manage you fire.