In spite of recent rains in some parts of Texas, the drought isn’t going away any time soon, said a Texas Cooperative Extension specialist. And with drought comes the increased risk of wildfires.
That’s why taking steps to protect home and property in case of fire is so important, said Janie Harris, Extension housing and environment specialist.
She recommends following these steps from the Texas Forest Service:
·Keep propane gas tanks far enough from buildings so valves can be shut off in case of fire. The area around the tank should be cleared of any vegetation that might fuel for fire.
·Store gasoline in approved safety cans, and keep these cans away from occupied buildings.
·Keep combustibles - including firewood, wooden lawn furniture, boats and lumber - away from buildings.
·Clean roofs and gutters regularly to prevent buildup of leaves and other debris which could catch and spread fire.
·Keep fire-fighting tools handy, including ladders long enough to reach the roof, shovels, rakes and some buckets for carrying water.
·Keep garden hoses connected on all sides of the house for emergencies.
·Know all the emergency exits from the house and from the neighborhood.
“You must plan ahead of time,” Harris said. “If you live in area with big trees, you need a defensible space around home; you need to know that trees close to the house can be fire fuel.”
To keep that risk down, Harris and the forest service recommended clearing trees and brush out an area at least 30 feet out from the house, she said.
“Cut tree limbs overhanging the roof; clean out gutters,” Harris continued. “Choose fire-wise landscaping, such as hardwoods instead of evergreens. And clearly mark your home address from the main road, and make sure your driveway is accessible for fire-fighting equipment.”
Knowing about burn bans in the area is also important, she said. On its Web site (http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/  ), the forest service maintains a current list of burn bans in the state. If burning is not banned, the forest service recommends:
·Clearing combustible material - such as grass, leaves, scrap wood and other debris - away from the site where the burn is to take place.
·Keeping a water hose ready at the site of the burn.
·Never leaving a burn pile unattended.
More information on protecting homes and property from wildfires can be found on the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network Web site at http://texashelp.tamu.edu/ , Harris said. But preparing for a disaster such as wildfire means more than protecting buildings, she said. Families should always keep disaster supply kits prepared and available for every member. The kits should include such items as necessary medication, changes of clothing, food and water, battery-operated radios and flashlights.
Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Web site ( http://fcs.tamu.edu/  ) has more information on preparing disaster supply kits.
And if wildfire should become more than just a possibility, “know to leave if you feel least bit threatened,” she said. “Know the ways to get out of your neighborhood – if there’s only one way to leave, get out early.
“And listen to the authorities. The bottom line is: When they tell you to get out, get out.”