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How to protect homes against wildfires

home near wildfire

Wildfire risk can be mitigated with a few simple steps, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. Courtesy photo

The Texas A&M Forest Service announced a decrease in fire weather through Wednesday, Aug. 10, but is not dropping its warnings against activities that could spark blazes. It also released information on how to protect homes against wildfire encroachment. 

Two Central Texas fires — the 1,210-acre Smoke Rider Fire in Blanco County and the 1,459-acre Big Sky Fire in Gillespie County — are 95 percent and 90 percent contained, respectively, as of Monday, Aug. 8, according to the Forest Service. However, the service’s firefighters responded to seven new wildfires on Monday despite a subtle increase in Gulf surface moisture that is expected to keep fire potential in the low to moderate range. None of the new fires are in Central Texas.

PROTECTING HOMES AND FAMILIES

Landscaping and maintenance are two important aspects of keeping a home safe from wildfires. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent ember ignitions and fire spread: 

  • trim branches that overhang your home, porch, and deck;
  • prune branches of large trees up to 6-10 feet, depending on their height, from the ground;
  • remove plants containing resins, oils, and waxes;
  • use crushed stone or gravel instead of flammable mulches in the 0- to 5-foot zone around your house;
  • never store flammable materials underneath decks or porches;
  • remove dead vegetation and debris from under decks and porches and between deck board joints;
  • and keep your landscaping in good condition. 

When building or remodeling your home, the proper materials can make a big difference. Here are a few tips: 

  • use Class A, fire-rated roofing products such as composite shingles, metal, concrete, and clay tiles;
  • inspect shingles or roof tiles and replace or repair any that are loose or missing;
  • use fire-resistant siding such as brick, fiber-cement, plaster, or stucco;
  • and use dual-pane, tempered-glass windows.

In case of a fire, help emergency responders by having legible and clearly marked street names and numbers on your home and property. Driveways should be at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet for emergency vehicle access. 

Other ways to be prepared include: 

  • developing and practicing an emergency action plan with everyone in your home, including what to do with pets, large animals, and livestock;
  • knowing two ways out of your neighborhood;
  • having a designated meeting place;
  • always evacuating if you feel unsafe — don’t wait for emergency services to tell you to go;
  • checking your insurance policy every year to adjust for local building costs, codes, and new renovations;
  • and creating and regularly updating your home’s inventory.

For more more information and checklists, visit firewise.org.

editor@thepicayune.com