AUSTIN, Texas -- Any time is a good time to safeguard your home and family against wildfires, but Texas’ April 9-13 Wildfire Awareness Week offers the perfect opportunity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of Texas suggest Texans use the week to learn their wildfire risk and get prepared.?
“Wildfire Awareness Week is an opportune time to plan for wildfire season, especially with the continuing risk due to the state’s drought conditions,” said Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd. “Educating yourself about the wildfire threat and taking steps to protect yourselves and your property could help prevent the kind of destruction Texas experienced last year.”
“Whether you own your home or rent, it’s important to have a plan in place to protect your personal property, family and pets from the devastation of a wildfire,” said Kevin Hannes, FEMA’s federal coordinating officer for the 2011 Texas wildfire recovery missions. “Make a plan, build a disaster supply kit and stay informed. Those are the three key components to staying safe under any hazardous conditions.”
Those living in historically high-risk areas for wildfires or in the Wildland Urban Interface, an area where homes or other structures meet and mix with undeveloped, natural landscapes, should be particularly aware of their surroundings and make preparedness a top priority, said Hannes. It’s also good idea review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy before a fire breaks out, he added.
FEMA and TDEM suggest taking proactive, preventative measures to protect a home against wildfire destruction, such as creating defensible space and hardening the home.
- 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.
- Trim all dead branches from trees in the yard and prune low hanging limbs to prevent fire from climbing to the crowns of the trees.
Harden the Home:
- 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.
FEMA’s resource, the “Home Builder’s Guide to Construction in Wildfire Zones,” www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=3646, provides excellent information about wildfire behavior and recommendations for building design and construction methods in areas prone to wildfires. Additional information on preparing homes and families from wildfire threats is at www.wildlandfirersg.org/index.cfm.