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County Agent Report: Fire prevention tips

Sept. 13, 2011 at 4:13 a.m.

A fire burns in the wooded lots west of Hawk Road on Saturday near Diana. Texas is in the midst of one of its worst wildfire outbreaks in state history.

FIRE PREVENTION TIPS

1. Do not park cars, trucks or machinery in grassy areas.

2. Preform machinery or vehicle repairs on vegetation-free soil.

3. If you must, be extremely careful with welding, grinding or cutting metal.

4. Always designate a "fire watch" person while performing questionable tasks.

5. Thoroughly wet grasses, leaves if vegetation-free soil is unavailable.

6. Before using machinery or equipment, check all bearings for quality performance/free movement.

7. Ensure all vehicle wheel hub nuts are tight.

8. Secure all chains to prevent them from dragging and causing a spark.

9. Remove hay and weed/trash buildup from moving parts within machinery.

10. Keep quality mufflers and spark arresters on engines and lawn mowers.

11. Keep a fire extinguisher with tractors and/or machinery and in the shop.

Never in my time has it become so urgent to heed the advice of our County Fire Marshal Ron Pray.

Thankfully, we haven't had the acreage or number of homes burn as near Bastrop - now more than 1,500 homes and 35,000 acres. Let's all do our part to help each other prevent fires and help our firefighters.

Farmers, ranchers and any landowner, for that matter, can do a lot to help prevent fires. First of all, use common sense - think about what you will do before you do it. If there is any question in mind about a potential fire; don't do it or call for advice before you do it.

Pray said you can call them at 361-579-9103 and they will be willing to help with advice about what you are going to do is in question.

The two most common reasons for fires are cigarettes being thrown out of vehicles and burn barrels not watched fully until they are totally extinguished.

Reports also show that about 90 percent of wildfires in Texas are caused by people doing simple, harmless things like outdoor grilling, campfires, something dragging from their vehicle causing a spark or through their everyday work, such as welding or cutting metal. All these can be prevented. We just need to follow safety precautions that minimize the risk of fires.

One of the most important aspects of this is to obey all burn bans and restrictions. Become familiar with the guidelines, if you must burn. Currently, the county burn ban limits all burning unless done so in an enclosed barrel covered with a inch hole screen or smaller.

The best advice is to postpone burning now when conditions are dry and windy.

Following the tips outlined may not only save your landscape, vehicle or home, but your or someone's life.

Firefighters have a difficult, life-risking job and anything we can do individually or in a group to help is appreciated.

The Texas 4-H organization is one such group dedicating efforts to help prevent these fires and major losses and helping our firefighters. They've just initiated "Operation Supply Drop" and are calling on all 4-Hers, parents and volunteers to help out.

They are collecting items needed by firefighters, such as cases of water, sports drinks, lip balm, high-protein type snacks (i.e. protein bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix, etc.), which will help them during their firefighting efforts. Items can be brought directly to the County Extension office, 528 Waco Circle, and they will be delivered as a group package to our fire marshal to disperse in needed areas throughout the state.

For more information, call 361-575-4581 or go to texas4-h.tamu.edu/operation_supply_drop.php.

Pray said financial donations are also being accepted, These can be made directly to your local volunteer fire department or to the Victoria County Fire Marshal designating it for volunteer fire assistance.

During these desperately dry times, let's all heed the advice of our fire marshal and do our part to prevent fires and help our firefighters. Your business and life may depend on it.

It's All About Trees. and More Symposium

Early registration ends today for the Victoria County Master Gardener Association's Gardening Symposium. The symposium, titled "It's All About Trees. And More," is Saturday, Sept. 24, featuring 10 gardening experts addressing 12 topics related to trees and gardening.

Early registration is $50 per person, which includes admission to the symposium, plant sale, luncheon, plus snacks and refreshments. After that, registration is $60 per person. TDA pesticide applicators can earn five CEU's (four IPM and one general) at the symposium. A Gardening Symposium flyer may be downloaded from vcmga.org, or picked up at Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County office, 528 Waco Circle. For information, call 361-575-4581.

South Texas Farm and Ranch Show - Oct. 26-27, 2011, Victoria Community Center; 125 exhibits; over 40 speakers; 16.5 TDA CEU's, 20 CCA's and 5.5 BQA's.

Joe Janak is a Victoria County extension agent.

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