September 2011 was my introduction to the Texas Wildfire Season. I had only lived in the Lone Star State for two years. I was still acclimating to the heat and drought conditions here. We had wildfires back in my home state but nothing like the fires I was to see here. Suddenly, my prepping took on a whole new dimension. This article is to help you prepare for fire prevention and possible evacuation, but not fire fighting. It is simply too dangerous. Plan to prevent a fire by making your home as fire retardant as possible and evacuate if the time comes. Your life isn't worth it. Wildfires in Texas tend to become "firestorms". Think Dresden, Germany in 1945.
Fire Prevention Plan:
1) Keep your property clear of all brush and undergrowth to 10' above ground and as far from the house as possible. Keep trees away from the house and from extending over your roof. This can not be stressed enough. Fire needs fuel and keeping all the material you can away from the house is of the utmost importance.
2) If you can afford it, get metal roofing on your house and outbuildings. Burning embers will be falling on your roof long before the actual fire arrives.
3) Paint your exterior and eaves with fire retardant paint. It is expensive, but if you have a lot of exposed wood, you want it to be as hard to burn as possible.
4) Install a fire draft pond with a hydrant. Most rural fire departments are limited by the amount of water they can carry. Being able to draft from your pond will make your property defensible.
5) Install a fire break. If your property is large, install several fire breaks throughout the property utilizing the geography to help you. Fire breaks not only slow down a fire, they make your property accessible to equipment.
6) Ask your local fire marshall to come out and give you pointers on things you may have overlooked. Make sure your property is well marked and accessible. Your driveway entrance needs to be a minimum 25' wide. Your address needs to be easily read from the roadway. The safer and more accessible your property is, the more likely firefighters are to defend it.
7) Have a supply of fire retardant like "Barricade" or "FireIce" and know how to use it BEFORE you need it. Make sure you have enough hose length to be able to apply it to all sides of your home. Have the hose and retardant stored together in an easily accessible place. If you plan to apply the retardant to your roof, keep a ladder stored with the hose.
8) Have a plan for your livestock. Turning them loose is not necessarily a good plan. They will be loose as emergency equipment is trying to reach you and possibly be struck by vehicles. Remove nylon halters from cows and horses. Nylon melts in a fire. If you must halter your animals, use leather.
9) Cache some of your preps, if possible, to keep them from being lost in a fire.
10) Learn several alternate routes away from your house. Your preferred route may be blocked by fire or equipment. Practice these routes during the daytime and at night. If you will be evacuating with your livestock, haul your trailer on these routes to make sure they are manageable.
11) Have a prearranged contact person outside the area in case you are separated.
1) If a fire is approaching, close all windows, vents, etc. Close off your crawl spaces and the vents to your attic. Close all interior doors. Close your exterior doors and your garage doors. Leave everything UNlocked.
2) Turn off gas lines and propane lines. You need to practice this ahead of time so you can do it quickly. Keep the proper tools nearby.
3) Apply the fire retardant to your home. Coat all four sides of the home including the eaves. If your roof is not metal, do the roof as well. If you have enough, cover the yard area around your house and outbuildings.
4) Have your vehicles parked facing the exit. Have them pre-loaded. Load up your photos and valuables ahead of time any time there is a fire in the area. Yes, it is nuisance, but better than losing thing that can't be replaced.
5) Have all your pets up to date on their vaccinations. Have their vet paperwork and their cages pre-loaded in your vehicles. Put pets in their cages/carriers not loose in the vehicle where they could cause an accident or get loose.
6) Practice your plan! Drill until you can secure your house and load up your vehicle in less than 15 minutes. Wild land fires are fast moving. You will probably not have much notice. Assign each person a specific task so you are not wasting time overlapping. One person can secure the pets, another person can close all the windows, etc. Once you are able to load up in less than 15 minutes, practice weekly or monthly as needed.
Photo taken on September 5, 2011 of the Bastrop, Texas wildfire