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2011-03-17

Firewise tips to reduce homes’ risk from wildfire

Wildfires continue to threaten homes in Texas, as evidenced by news reports of the massive wildfire that swept through West Texas on Sunday, destroying 58 homes and blackening almost 88,000 acres.
In 2010, more than 6,000 wildland fires burned 210,320 acres across the state, and with its peak wildfire season from early March to late April, communities are looking for ways to reduce wildfire risk.
Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing a property of debris and regular landscaping are important first steps to reduce risk of wildfire damage. Here are eight steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of homes and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:
• Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks to prevent embers from igniting a home.
• Keep lawn hydrated and maintained as dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
• Remove fuel within three to five feet of a home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch a house, deck or porch.
• Clear vegetation surrounding a home - at least 30 to 100 feet - depending on an area’s wildfire risk.
• Wildfire can spread to treetops. Prune large trees property so the lowest branches are six- to 10-feet high.
• Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
• When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
• Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. The state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information.
Those planning to update homes should consider Firewise construction materials for decks, porches and fences. “Class-A” materials include asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.
Learn more about keeping family safe and reducing a home’s risk for wildfire damage at www.firewise.org. Additional landscaping tips, checklists for preparing and maintaining property and fire-safe construction choices are also available on the website.