Survivability in the Wildland/Urban interface

By Allen McWhirter, Fire Chief of West Lake Limestone VFD 

Moving into the New Year and looking to better ourselves and our community perhaps one of the improvements we would look at making is becoming more fire wise. The recent reports and pictures of wildfires in California, pushed into areas of Wildland/Urban interface by wind and dry weather, are poignant reminders of how vulnerable we can be to fire.

We have seen the devastation of entire neighborhoods and livelihoods, not just in the west but much closer to home. Memories of the Hidden Pines fire in Bastrop County in 2011 that blackened 34,000 acres, destroyed 1,691 homes and killed two people are fresh on our minds. Even closer to home, significant wildfires have burned parts of Limestone County that consumed property and scorched large areas. These types of disasters can happen here. 

These large wildfires can overwhelm your fire department’s ability to control them. Calls for mutual aid from neighboring fire departments can prove insufficient. At some point decisions are made by emergency responders to assign resources to areas that are defensible. We work to protect and defend what we can save. The rest goes up in smoke!

So how do we protect our property and possessions from wildfires when we build in rural areas where homes and businesses meet the brush and trees? How do we live in harmony with nature in the Wildland/Urban interface? How do we make our space more defensible to the firefighters?

One program available to us is Ready, Set, Go. This is a wildfire action plan that saves lives and property. Ready, Set, Go begins with a house that firefighters can defend. FIREWISE is a system of limiting your home’s exposure to wildfires. It outlines steps in hardening your house against wildfire and creating fire-limiting zones around the home-space. These zones, that reduce fuels near the house, produce a defensible space around your home.

Once you’ve done what you can to protect your house, it’s time to prepare a wildfire action plan. Get Ready by planning evacuations, assigning meeting locations for family members, and developing a communications plan, among other preparations done before the threat of wildfire. Get Set as the fire approaches. Complete checklists that were made as part of getting ready, make preparations in the event you are trapped, and be ready to evacuate. Then Go early! Leave early enough to avoid fire, smoke or road congestion. Stay informed of the situation and don’t wait to be told to leave. Know where to go, how to get there and what to take with you.

This new year prepare yourself and your property against the ravages of wildfire. Information on FIREWISE and Ready, Set, Go are available online. Contact your local fire department for more information on these programs and for assistance in improving the survivability of your possessions in the event of a wildfire.

West Lake Limestone VFD is looking for the opportunity to partner with residents in our community to improve safety in the Wildland/Urban interface. Contact me at the fire station. These types of disasters can happen here!         

Groesbeck Journal

P.O. Box 440
Groesbeck, TX 76642
Phone: 254-729-5103
Fax: 254-729-0362