Wildfire prevention tips from the Texas A&M Forest Service

By Whitney Wyatt/The Red River Sun—

CHILDRESS – Nine out of 10 wildfires in Texas are caused by humans, and the Texas A&M Forest Service encourages residents to be ready for potential wildfires with its Ready, Set, Go! Program.

Get Ready by creating defensible spaces between homes and wildland areas, said James DeGrazia Texas A&M Forest Service Mitigation & Prevention Department Wildland Urban Interface Specialist I. This includes removing dead vegetation and trimming up tree canopies within the first thirty feet from your home.

Get Set by developing a family disaster plan that includes a go kit, meeting locations, communication plans and plans for family pets. DeGrazia recommends planning and practicing exit routes as well as maintaining awareness wildfire activity nearby.

Go when an evacuation is ordered. Take the go kit, evacuate early and cooperate with local authorities during the process, DeGrazia said. Stay alert of the wildfire threat.
“Some wildfires occur from natural causes, such as lightning,” DeGrazia said. “Areas prone to lightning-caused wildfires should be particularly diligent in following the Ready, Set, Go!

Program and taking mitigation actions around their home.”

DeGrazia explained residents should clean up and relocate combustible materials around the home, like firewood, vegetation and fuel cans. Keep grass mowed short. Trim trees and bushes as needed to maintain defensible space around the home. Prepare go kits. Create an action plan for evacuation, know multiple routes and destination and identify a meeting place in case family member become separated. He also said to become familiar with local emergency notification and alert systems. Remain alert and informed and cooperate with local authorities if a wildfire threatens the area.

When it comes to evacuation, the Texas A&M Forest Service has planning tips:

• Make a list of things to take.
• Leave early to prevent being caught in the fire, smoke or road congestion.
• Don’t wait to be told to leave. During a wildfire, authorities may not have time to contact every household.
• If you are advised to leave, don’t hesitate.
• If you must evacuate, leave to a predetermined, low-risk area.
• Have several travel routes planned in case one route is blocked by fire or emergency response personnel.
• Choose an escape route away from the fire.
• Take an emergency supply kit containing necessary items.

Basic emergency kits should include three-day supply of water (per family member), three-day supply of non-perishable food (per family member), can opener, first aid kit, dust masks or bandanas, flashlight and extra batteries, extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash, sanitation supplies, extra eyeglasses and contact lenses, important family documents and contact numbers, map marked with evacuation routes, prescriptions or other necessary medications, family photos and other non-replaceable items, easily carried valuables, personal computers (or information on external hard drives) and chargers for cell phones and laptops.

For more information on the Ready, Set, Go! Program visit http://www.wildlandfirersg.org/.

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