It's not just Southern California -- conditions throughout much of the Southwest are ripe for wildfires like those seen in 2006. And experts are passing on life- and property-saving advice.
"It's setting up to be that kind of year again," says Wayne Hanselka, Extension range specialist in Corpus Christi, TX. "We've had so much rain, a lot of moisture, and have grown a lot of grass." This combination of conditions has led to increased fire concerns across Oklahoma and portions of Texas, as well as eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.
Texas Forest Service officials offer the following tips to lessen the threat of wildfire damage to your house and buildings:
- Propane tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep area around the tank clear of flammable vegetation.
- Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.
- Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid buildup of leaves, debris and other flammable materials.
- In rural areas, clear a fire break of at least three times the fuel length around all structures.
- Have fire tools handy such as: 2 ladders long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and a bucket or two for water.
- Place connected garden hoses at all sides of the home for emergency use.
- Know all emergency exits from the home and neighborhood.
- Create a defensible space of at least 30 ft. around your house and outbuildings, closely mow lawns, and trees should be pruned and spaced widely apart.
- Establish fuel breaks along roadways and between buildings and fields or woodlands.
- Keep mufflers and spark arresters on ag equipment in proper working order and watch out for rocks and metal when bush hogging or mowing.
- Monitor hay-baling operations closely; dry hay can ignite within the baler.
- Watch out for sparks when using welding equipment to build fences or repair equipment.
- Avoid driving or parking vehicles in grassy areas where tall, dry grass comes into contact with hot pollution-control equipment under vehicles.
- When debris burning is allowed, establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil prior to lighting your fire.
- Burn trash in a burn barrel or other fire-safe receptacle covered with a wire mesh or grid that will help contain burning debris. Stay with the fire until it is out.
- Make onsite arrangements for removal of livestock and protection for feeders, pens, fences, oil and gas structures, wells, windmills, stored hay, barns and other structures.
- Refresh or implement firebreaks.