AUSTIN, Texas -- Though the embers from the Texas wildfires have cooled, many survivors in the 23 affected counties still face the heavy task of rebuilding. With a new wildfire season under way, now is the time to rebuild safer and stronger homes, and more wildfire-resilient communities.
Officials from the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge wildfire survivors to take a proactive approach to wildfire prevention by using rebuilding techniques that can help reduce the risk of damages from future disastrous wildfires.
"Texans who are rebuilding homes severely damaged or destroyed by the fires face many choices, and opportunities," said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin L. Hannes of FEMA. “This is an ideal time to take fire-resistant measures that could minimize damage if another wildfire strikes.”
Although homeowners have many options when working to mitigate against wildfire damage, TDEM and FEMA provide the following key tips:
- Create a fire-safe landscape zone ranging from 30 to 100 feet around the home.
- Plant only fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees. Carefully space tree plantings to avoid creating pockets of fuel.
- Create “fuel breaks,” such as driveways and gravel walkways.
- Remove ground fuels like grass, leaves, pine needles, dead limbs and twigs within 30 feet of the home. Clear all flammable vegetation and other materials. Remove branches that extend over the roof or power lines. Mow grass regularly.
- Use fire-resistant roofing material, such as ceramic or slate tile, or standing-seam metal roofing.
- Protect the home’s eaves with stucco or plaster to prevent flying embers from starting a fire. Consider designing the home without overhangs or use fire-resistant soffits to protect it from embers and hot gases.
- Ensure that exterior wall coverings are fire-resistant and not susceptible to melting. Concrete, fiber-cement panels or siding, stucco, masonry and metal are some recommended materials.
- Use metal mesh screens to keep fast-flying embers out of vents and chimneys. Vents should also be made of metal.
- Dual or triple-glazed windows are safer than single-glazed in resisting fire penetration. Window frames should be constructed only of metal.
FEMA offers an excellent resource, the “Home Builder’s Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones,” that provides information about wildfire behavior and recommendations for building design and construction methods in areas prone to wildfires. To download the guide, go to www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=3646.
For more information on rebuilding resources, construction techniques and FEMA’s mitigation programs, visit www.fema.gov/rebuild/mitigation.shtm.
Texans have until Jan. 6 to register with FEMA. Survivors can apply online at www.disasterassistance.gov, via web-enabled phone at m.fema.gov, or by telephone via FEMA’s toll-free numbers: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services can call 1-800-621-3362. Assistants are available by phone from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.