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Residents, businesses can take precautions now to protect against future wildfires

By ALLISON MILES
May 22, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.

Firefighters mop up an area of the Two Bush Road fire, which burned on April 5, 2009, in Jack County. It was mostly controlled when severe weather four days later caused it to flare back to life. The fire ultimately destroyed 2,910 acres of land.

Want to evaluate your home or business's risk of wildfire? The Texas Forest Service has a site dedicated solely to risk evaluation and management. Visit texaswildfirerisk.com to find out more.

Helping those who help you

Victoria County is home to 11 volunteer fire departments and small gestures can make a big difference in keeping those entities going, said Ron Pray, Victoria County fire marshal.

Pray urged residents looking to give back to support the volunteer organizations' fundraisers, offer donations and ask what the departments need to do their jobs better.

For those looking for a more hands-on approach, volunteer opportunities are also available.

For more information, call Pray's office at 361-579-9103.

While areas of West Texas battle wildfire blazes, the Crossroads region's recent moisture means it doesn't face that same risk, officials said.

Still, it pays to play it safe.

"Our KPI numbers are low and we got rain recently, but things are drying off," Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray Said. "And, if we don't get water soon, we could see fires."

Pray said the region's biggest issue tends to be residents who burn items, but leave fires unattended. He encouraged people to watch the flames until they're out and keep a water source nearby.

Those doing controlled burns should prepare the areas beforehand, he said, by plowing around burn sites and taking care of fire guards. They should also contact the fire marshal's office, to keep fire personnel from sending out resources when it isn't necessary.

Bruce Woods, department head with mitigation and prevention for the Texas Forest Service, also offered advice for homeowners and landowners looking to keep property safe.

He advised people to create a 30-foot defensible space around homes, barns and outbuildings.

Remove dead or dying vegetation, which could feed flames, he said, clean leaf litter from roofs and trim tree canopies regularly. Also, he added, avoid keeping wood piles by the house.

"That's a common mistake I see across the state," he said of the piles.

When it comes to building a home, Woods encouraged people to "give houses an edge" with non-combustible roofs, screens over vents and, for mobile homes, non-combustible skirts.

Families should also plan ahead, he noted.

Have fire extinguishers on hand and know where they are, Woods said. Also know where to shut off the home's electricity and gas lines in case a fire were to approach.

"Most importantly, plan an evacuation route and know where to evacuate to," he said. "When people say to leave, it's time to leave."

Back in Victoria, Pray said he hoped to see residents taking precautions and keeping safe during dry months. When problems do arise, however, city and county fire crews, as well as 11 volunteer fire departments, are at the ready.

"We don't know what the future holds but we're always watching and keeping vigilant," he said.

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