COLLEGE STATION — As Texans make plans to observe Memorial Day, which marks the unofficial start to summer, Texas A&M Forest Service encourages residents to prepare for wildfires.
This year, wildfire activity has been below average due to the limited amount of grass across the landscape and frequent rainfall statewide.
Since Jan. 1, state and local firefighters have responded to 1,166 wildfires that have burned 39,167 acres statewide. By this time last year, firefighters had responded to 6,343 wildfires that burned more than 518,000 acres.
Despite the difference in activity levels, the threat of wildfire is continual for the state. Four to five weeks of dry conditions will result in a substantial increase in wildfire activity, as vegetation dries and becomes receptive to burning.
“The actions that homeowners take before a wildfire ignites are crucial to reducing structural ignitability and providing a safe environment for firefighters to work,” said Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Chief. “The agency has responded to countless wildfires where mitigation measures were implemented well in advance of a wildfire event, which saved homes and lives.”
There are simple measures that anyone can do around their home to decrease susceptibility to wildfire.
- Keep the area within five feet around structures free of combustible material, such as mulch, plants, firewood stacks and patio furniture.
- For the area within 5-30 feet of a structure, keep grass mowed and rake away vegetative debris.
- Keep a healthy, well-maintained landscape. Make sure your plants are properly spaced, low growing and free of resins, oils and waxes that burn easily.
- Remove dead vegetation from under the deck of your home.
- Prune trees so that low-hanging branches do not touch the ground. Avoid pruning oak trees from February through June to avoid the spread of oak wilt, and always paint oak wounds.
While wildfire activity has been minimal this year compared to 2022, hot and dry conditions typical of a Texas summer will create an environment more supportive of ignitions.
“Though rains have helped decrease wildfire potential, we encourage everyone to be careful with outdoor activities this holiday,” said Karen Stafford, Texas A&M Forest Service Prevention Program Coordinator.
In Texas, nine out of 10 wildfires are human-caused and preventable. The most common causes of wildfires during the summer months are debris burning and equipment use, which includes parking in dry grass and dragging trailer chains.
As we head into summer, keep the following tips in mind to help prevent wildfires:
- Always check with local officials for burn bans and other outdoor burning restrictions. Pay attention to local guidelines regarding open fires, campfires and outdoor activities that may pose a fire hazard.
- Park in designated spaces and avoid driving over and parking on dry grass; the heat from your vehicle can easily ignite the grass.
- When using a cooking fire or campfire, never leave it unattended. Always make sure it is completely out by drowning it with water, stirring it and feeling to ensure that it is out cold before you leave.
- If pulling a trailer, make sure the tow chains are properly connected and not dragging on the road creating sparks.
- Be careful when discarding cigarettes, matches and other potential ignition sources. Dispose of them in designated containers.
- If you witness suspicious behavior or signs of arson, immediately call the local authorities.
For more information about protecting your home, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/ProtectYourHome/.