Don’t keep the home fires burning

March 8, 2014

It’s March, which means that pretty soon people will start annoying the heck out of us with questions such as, “Hot enough for ya?”

Texas summers being what they are, we can probably count on being sweaty and miserable for, oh, six months or so.

But armpit sweat stains aren’t the only dangers we in Hood County will be facing this summer. The threat of disastrous wildfires is very real, and will be made worse by lakebed vegetation that has grown tall and brittle as drought conditions have persisted and the lake has receded.

In canal developments, where houses are clustered in close proximity, fires could spread quickly, posing significant challenges to the county’s nine volunteer fire departments. Also a challenge: getting firefighting equipment onto a lakebed that might be too soft to sustain heavy trucks.

“We would have to call for additional resources,” said Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Ray Wilson. “All we can do is deal with the situation when it presents itself.”

It’s all pretty scarey, but there are things that waterfront homeowners can do to mitigate possible fire threats. Now might be the time to take on these tasks, before the heat descends upon us.

Here is some advice from both Wilson and the Texas Forest Service on creating a buffer zone that will slow down a spreading fire and help firefighters defend your home:

Mow and weed-eat around dock areas.

Eliminate low-hanging tree branches that could serve as a “fire ladder.”

Keep tree branches trimmed to not less than 10 feet from a chimney.

Clean out gutters.

When planning landscaping, put space between plants and shrubs.

Place any woodpiles or other combustible materials more than 30 feet from homes and decks.

Remove or prune vegetation that is near windows.

Fire prevention experts recommend that families have a disaster plan. Parents, here’s what you should do:

Decide on meeting locations and communication plans. Have rehearsals.

Have fire extinguishers and make sure kids know how to use them.

Make sure everyone in the family knows how to shut off gas, electricity and water.

Plan several different escape routes.

Appoint an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact.

Pre-program your GPS device with several escape routes in the event that visibility is low.

In closing, there is one other piece of advice, but it’s not among the tips provided by the Texas Forest Service.

Pray for rain.

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