Oil & Gas Editor
We’ve had beneficial rains, so far, this year, but hot, humid conditions are upon us, in the middle of the summer. It’s common to expect this kind of dry weather in this area of South Texas at this time. With all of the new development, with numerous oil service firms locating in Atascosa County and throughout the Eagle Ford Shale, it’s a good time to survey your property, be it an industrial site or a home site. There are ways to decrease the likelihood of a wildfire doing damage to your property.
Forest Service (TFS) provides helpful information on how to be better prepared for a wildfire approaching your property. TFS, under its Urban Wildlife Interface (UWI) program, gives suggestions for this area of the brush country where combustible homes and buildings are mixed with combustible vegetation. By creating defensible/survivable space around your home or business property, you can greatly reduce its risk of being destroyed by wildfire. This space is designed to allow firefighters room to fight the fire, give a structure the capability to survive a wild fire when firefighters cannot safely attempt to defend it, and stop a fire from spreading from the structure to the surrounding vegetation.
Defensible space should begin at the outermost extension of the home (foundation, deck, etc.) or commercial building and extend outward to a point that is a minimum of one and one/half times the height of the structure. Adjustments for slope and fuel type will increase the distance needed for defensible space.
Landscaping can be accomplished with fire safety in mind while still maintaining a natural and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Survey the vegetation within and beyond the vicinity of your structure; it could be hazardous. If the area immediately surrounding your building contains trees, shrubs and other vegetation, that burn easily, your building is at an increased risk of damage during wildland fires. Plant native and fire resistant vegetation, when possible. With minimum maintenance, this vegetation should stay greener and more succulent - with better plant survival.
Within the designated zone of defensible space:
• Thin trees and brush cover so that adjacent tree canopies (or crowns) are 10- 15 feet apart.
• Avoid placing trees and shrubs near or under windows, and use, only, lowgrowing shrubs and trees near driveways and entrances.
• Isolate flowerbeds from one another, and surround them with non-combustible material such as crushed brick or rock.
• Before planting vegetation, consider the direction of prevailing winds. Using less vegetation and more noncombustible materials in the path of prevailing winds will reduce the risk of firebrands being generated from an approaching fire.
• Remove branches that extend over the eaves of the roof and within 10-15 feet of the chimney.
• Remove shrubs and small trees with a 4-inch diameter or less from beneath trees; left in place, these can carry a ground fire into tree crowns.
• Keep the grass mowed to about two inches or less and well watered, especially during periods of high fire danger.
• Remove dead limbs, leaves, needles or other ground litter as well.
• Have garden hoses connected at all times and long enough to reach around the entire structure.
• Store shovels, buckets and rakes in an accessible area.
• Choose plants and trees with high moisture content in the leaves.
• Avoid evergreens such as pines and cedars and select plants with a low oil or resin content.
• Most importantly, choose plants that are heat and drought resistant.
Practiced prevention provides the best protection for you and your property. While property is important, it can be replaced. Family members and heirlooms cannot. Communicate with your family. Create and rehearse a prevention evacuation plan before the fire ever occurs. It could make a difference between a deadly fire and a survivable fire.
In a fire emergency, while driving, it is possible to survive the firestorm if you stay in your car: it’s less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot. If you find yourself in this situation, roll up the windows and close the air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on, but do not drive through heavy smoke. If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn headlights on and ignition off. Get on the floor, cover up with a blanket or coat, and stay in the vehicle until the main fire passes. Be aware that some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle, and the temperature inside will increase. However, metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.
In a situation where a fire passes your home, check the roof immediately. Extinguish any roof fires, sparks or embers and check the attic for possible burning embers. For several hours after the fire, maintain a fire watch. Recheck for smoke and fire throughout the house.
LEONZABAVA is the Oil and Gas Editor of the Pleasanton Express. Contact him at 830-281-2341 or email@example.com