Wildfire risk increasing as summer approaches

Texans face a growing risk of wildfires as the state transitions from a spring to summer weather pattern. Winter and spring rains produced an abundance of vegetation that is rapidly drying out and increasing the likelihood of damaging wildfires. Fire officials monitoring vegetation and weather conditions note that precipitation amounts have already started to slow down across the state. The predicted weather pattern indicates an increasing fire danger, primarily across the southern, central and eastern parts of the state, according to Tom Spencer, fire risk assessment coordinator for the Texas Forest Service in Huntsville. He advised the number of fire starts could rise over the few weeks if the latest long-range weather forecast proves accurate. Texas residents should act now to implement safety precautions around their homes to help prevent unnecessary losses, said Jim Blott, chief of fire mitigation with the Texas Forest Service in Conroe. “Waiting to take safety precautions until a wildfire is racing toward your house is too late for most protective measures,” said Blott. “With a few changes in landscaping and some simple building alterations, almost everyone can improve the ‘survivability’ of their homes and other property.” Texans can increase the likelihood that their homes will survive a wildfire by decreasing the amount of fuel available to a fire. Yards should be kept closely mowed to slow the progress of a wildfire. Tall grass and brush should be removed or trimmed back away from structures and overhead utility lines. Vegetation and other combustible materials, such as firewood, should be removed from under decks, and the space beneath the decks should screened to keep out embers. Roofs should be kept free of leaves and other debris, and all vents screened to prevent blowing embers from entering structures. When building new structures or replacing roofs on existing structures, use fire resistant roofing materials. Residents with Internet access can reference the website: http://www.firewise.org/communities to get more information on safeguarding their property.

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