Weather Center

Only You Can Prevent Texas Wildfires

By Casey Kelly-Barton 5.1.18

After last winter’s drought, Texas wildfires are expected to be an issue. Wildfires are dangerous and unpredictable. They can flare up in all types of Texas landscapes, from ranches and forests to suburban neighborhoods. That means all of us will be safer if we know the warning signs that wildfire risk is high, put some time into protecting our homes, and know when it’s time to evacuate if there’s a fire nearby.

Read the Signs

Experienced farmers and ranchers usually pick up on weather cues for fire risk, and so can everyone else. “Look for very windy days, low relative humidity, and bright sunny days with warm temperatures,” advises Rich Gray, assistant chief for the Panhandle region of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Gray has worked with firefighters across the state to fight and prevent wildfires. “Generally, winds that are from the southwest and west are the driest,” he says. “Winds from the north and northwest also bring increased fire danger.”

Check the Forecast

Keep up with your local forecast, which will include red flag warnings on days when fire danger is high. Three great resources are:

Reduce Risks

You can take three important steps to make your home safer, Gray says.

  • Keep your roof and gutters free of leaves and other combustible debris.
  • Screen or seal foundation openings to keep embers out. “For mobile homes, make sure you have underpinning,” Gray says. “If you have a pier-and-beam house, make sure the area around and underneath the house is not open.” Use noncombustible materials or small-diameter wire mesh to cover gaps.
  • Get rid of overgrown shrubs, vines, and overhanging tree limbs that could spread fire to your siding and roof. Dead plants and leaves are extremely flammable, but live ones can be dangerous too. Plants that climb upward can act as “ladder fuels” and encourage flames to climb with them. Keep vegetation low and maintained in the area that’s 30 feet or less from your house.
  • Follow the Texas Forest Service’s Firewise Landscaping in Texas guide.

Close Your Windows

It’s a common misconception that you should leave windows open. Many people think it may relieve the heat pressure from a raging fire outside, allow pets to escape, or make it easier for firefighters to enter their home. However, it’s essential that windows stay closed.

Windows can break from a difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the house. Double-pane windows provide the best protection, but you can also put a plywood “shutter” on each window to protect it from intense heat and flying embers. Closing your windows will protect your home from smoke and burning debris that could get inside and cause damage. Make sure you take pets with you when you evacuate, and leave windows unlocked when you close them in case firefighters need to enter your home.

Know When to Go

It’s important to have an evacuation plan for your family during any natural disaster or crisis and to evacuate when officials say it’s time to go.

“The decision to evacuate is not made lightly or in haste,” Gray says. “Law enforcement and fire officials understand the added stress that this conveys to homeowners. So when the decision is made to ask individuals to evacuate, it’s directly related to their life’s safety.” Those who linger “not only put themselves and their family at risk, they also put first responders at risk.”

By knowing the signs, minimizing risks, and being ready to leave if you have to, you can help protect your family and other Texans from wildfires. Check in with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to make sure you have the right home coverage in case of a natural disaster.

You can find more home-safety tips here.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation.

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