Fire marshal: Grass fires not just in rural areas
Last September, wildfires destroyed almost 500 homes in Bastrop County. Earlier this month, wildfires burned more than 65 structures in central Oklahoma.
McKinney Fire Marshal Dwayne Henderson wants McKinney residents, especially those who live near the edge of the city, to take proper steps to help make certain such tragedies do not occur in their area.
He said McKinney firefighters battled more than a half dozen grass fires in McKinney just during the past few weeks.
"While we tend to think of grass fires as a problem primarily for rural areas, many populated areas are at risk due to the increased number of homes and other structures being built in natural settings," Henderson said. "This kind of area, known as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), is where suburbs meet open space."
Wildfires, commonly called grass fires, can be the result of an act of nature such as a lightning strike.
"However," he said, "nearly 90 percent of wildfires are started by humans. Careless debris burning of household trash, brush piles, leaf piles and garden spots results in the largest number of human-caused wildfires."
He said wildfires are also sometimes caused by sparks from welding and grinding equipment, carelessly discarded smoking materials, hot vehicle pollution-control equipment and arson.
"Always use caution with anything that can cause a spark, and never discard smoking materials not completely extinguished and cool to the touch," he said. "And if you do start a wildfire, call 911 immediately."
He added, "If your home or business is located in a WUI area, you can take precautions to increase the likelihood of your property surviving a wildfire."
He suggested the following precautions:
* Maintain defensible space around your property by using fire-resistant landscape and design characteristics. Go to http://txforestservice.tamue.edu for related suggestions.
* Store lighter fluid, gasoline, etc., for lawn mower, weed eater, etc., in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.
* All combustibles such as firewood, wooden picnic tables, gas grills, etc., should be kept away from structures.
* Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid build-up of flammable materials such as leaves and other debris.
* Remove branches from trees to a height of 15 feet. Keep tree branches from touching structures, power lines, etc. Embers from a fire may travel as much as a mile through the air, landing in the tops of trees.
* Make sure you and your family know of all emergency exits from your home and exit routes from your neighborhood.
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