Pflugerville, Texas, just 30 minutes outside of Austin, was under a red flag warning for wildfires at the beginning of February. A red flag warning indicates conditions that may rapidly increase the risk for wildfire activity. Many residents in the area thought the rain in recent months would reduce the risk of wildfires, but any dry periods with high winds can easily turn into out-of-control wildfires.
Texas consistently ranks as one of the top states in the country for the number of wildfires that occur every year. As of February 12, Texas has fought 5 wildfires and lost 8,549 acres to fires in 2016. All Texans should understand wildfire preparation in the event of a wildfire outbreak. Are you prepared for the event of a wildfire?
According to the National Park Service, 90% of wildfires are caused by human activities such as trash burning, abandoned campfires, acts of arson, and abandoned cigarette butts.
If you do need to start a fire on your property for recreation or for yard cleanup, take safety precautions. Make sure the type of fire you plan to build is legal, and then use the following tips to keep the fire under control:
- Separate the burn space with a pit or rocks to contain the fire – Remove all brush and dead grass from the area.
- Keep a hose nearby – If you are near your home, wet the ground around the fire pit and any overhanging limbs. Keep a hose nearby for emergencies and wet the surrounding area for as long as you plan to feed the fire.
- Never leave a campfire unattended – During dry or windy conditions, a small campfire can turn into a large wildfire. Keep a shovel and some dirt handy if your campsite is away from accessible water.
- Use common sense – Do not leave flammable substances or dirty rags out in the open. Put your cigarette butt in a trash receptacle instead of throwing it on the ground.
- Choose landscaping carefully – Some plants burn more readily than others. Surround your home with wildfire inhibiting landscaping.
Preparing for a Wildfire
Don’t wait until your area is under a red flag warning to start thinking about wildfire safety and preparedness. Prepare for a wildfire like you would any other natural disaster. Create a plan for your household and practice the plan at least once a year. Use these tips to help you prepare for any wildfire risk:
- Get involved with a local prevention program – Take advantage of preparation programs around your community to practice working together as a community. Take your children to a Smokey the Bear event at least once a year.
- Create an evacuation plan – Determine who you can stay with or where you will go in the event of an emergency. Create several meetup points for your family, depending on where a wildfire might pop up. Choose meetup locations with a strong cell service so you can communicate.
- Prepare a go-bag – Scrambling around your house for belongings to save can be deadly. Make a list of items you need to grab at the time and put basic necessities in a ready-to-go bag. Include toiletries, copies of important documents, spare clothes, lots of water, and some extra food.
- Prepare for your pets – Pets can be important family members. If you have furry (or not so furry) loved ones, create an emergency plan that includes water and food, medicines, and documents for them, too.
- Keep your phone charged and your tank full –During yellow and red flag warnings, keep your vehicle and your phone ready to go at a moment’s notice.