It is no secret that Texas is burning.
Record drought and record temperatures have made tinder out of most of Texas. The latest fire occurred in the Lost Pines area of Bastrop. The fire destroyed 1,554 homes and 17 people are missing. Check out status of this and other wildfires in Texas at the Texas Forest Service website.
Texas is one of the few states that rely primarily on volunteer fire departments to protect rural areas from wildfires. About 330 firefighters with the forest service traditionally serve as a second tier of defense when such fires get larger than the local department can handle.
Funds to volunteer fire departments were cut 75 percent and funding for Texas Forest Service were cut 35 percent this biennium by the Texas Legislature.
Also, Texas Guard members, who normally help fight fires are fighting for their lives on foreign shores, so Texas burns . . .
What Can You Do?
Do not expect volunteer firefighters with aging trucks and equipment to be able to save your neighborhood. Take steps NOW to protect your home from wildfires. California Fire Alliance publishes a tip sheet that has many good ideas on how to build, site and landscape your home to give it a better chance of surviving a fire. If your home is surrounded by a defensible space, it is more likely to survive.
The Defensible Home
Firefighters and emergency professionals do all they can to stop wildfires, but they have to be smart and they will look for homes and buildings that are easier to protect. Homes with defensible space are the homes that firefighters look for, because they are safer to go near and easier to save.
Download the PDF fact sheet here (right click on link and select "save as" and save it to your computer. This fact sheet is two pages that just might save your home.
Tips From a Texan
I have lived in Texas my entire life. Fire is a natural occurrence, set by lightening, sparking equipment, cigarettes thrown from cars, campfires left untended, burning yard waste under a burn ban, dumb people . . .
Here are a few money-saving tips if you are in the market for these items:
- When my house needed new siding, I paid to have the outside covered in HardiPlank, a mixture of cement and fibers that is mostly fireproof.
- When my roof was punctured by hail and taken off by a tornado, I looked for the best shingle I could buy. I found a shingle that was hail-resistant, fire-resistant and wind-resistant to 130 mpg. No roofing company had heard of these shingles, let alone had any in stock. I had to call the manufacturer and they shipped the shingles to me.
- Other improvements were to knock down a wooden shed and replace it with a metal building.
Not only is the outside of my home fire resistant, I received a hefty discount from my insurance company and some of the improvements qualified for energy tax credits.
Water Catchment Systems
On the back side of my home, the ground and grass came up to the bottom of the siding. This was a place for rot, ants and moisture to invade my home. I had a five foot wide and twelve inch deep trench dug around the back and side of my home and filled it with river rock. We included a perforated PVC pipe to water the foundation. The trench acts as a drain in rain and can be filled with water to buffer my home in time of fire.
Rain Barrels and Rain Walls
I have rain barrels for catching what rain we do have. With the drought, the water pressure at my house is basically a thin stream. With rain barrels, I have some gravity-fed water on hand to wet down the area around my home. I plan to buy rain wall, which is modular, with each section holding 350 gallons of water.
I water my lawn with grey water. This is water from my washing machine. Some grey water systems will use every drop of water that does not come from the toilets. I use ecologically sound detergent, so I am not adding anything but water and some organic compound to my lawn.
I hope this post has given you some ideas about how you can improve the chance your home will survive the next fire. Download the PDF file and read it. Make changes, as you have time. Clean out the chimney, cut back brush, install a rain harvesting system, trim the lower branches of your trees, buy some new hoses. Keep fire in mind when you replace siding, roofing and outbuildings.
May God grant us rain soon..