Posted on 11. Apr, 2012 by Brian Knox
We are right in the middle of Wildfire Awareness Week, and after last year’s outbreak of wildfires, I think we are all a little more aware of the dangers they pose.
The Texas Forest Service sent me a press release last week that describes their effort to get the word out about the potential dangers of outdoor activities that can start a fire and ways to protect your home and property in case a wildfire breaks out in your area. To help drive home the point, they’ve apparently enlisted the help of my all-time favorite baseball player, Nolan Ryan, who filmed a public service announcement. It’s pretty funny. Check it out here.
Here are some tips they provide on preventing wildfires:
· Obey all local burn bans and restrictions.
· Postpone burning when conditions are dry or windy.
· Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil.
· Never leave fire unattended.
· Keep water and hand tools nearby.
· Remove vegetation from the work area.
· Where vegetation cannot be removed, use a sprayer to wet down the work area prior to starting welding operations. Wet a wider area on the down-wind side from the welding location. If working in the same area for an extended period, re-wet the vegetation surrounding the work site.
· Keep water handy.
· Have someone with you to spot any fires that the sparks ignite so that they can be caught while small.
· Avoid parking vehicles in dry, tall grass.
· Check bearing frequently and stop use if they get too hot.
· Remove any loose hay trapped around rollers-the friction can build up and start a fire.
· Keep a fire extinguisher and field sprayer nearby in case a fire breaks out.
· Check local restrictions on campfires.
· Build and burn campfires in a metal box or fire pit only.
· Do not build a fire in dry, windy conditions.
· Make sure the campfire is at least 15 feet from surroundings and low hanging branches.
· Use an approved gas stove as an alternative for heating and cooking.
· If charcoal grills are permitted, use them only over fire proof surfaces such as asphalt or bare mineral soil.
· Follow all county and city laws regarding fireworks use.
· Only use fireworks outdoors and away from dry grass and buildings.
· Read the labels and use only as directed, with adult supervision.
· Keep water, wet towels an d a garden hose nearby.
· Allow fireworks to cool completely before handling, and discard used fireworks into a bucket of water.
Using lawn equipment and motor vehicles
· Keep mufflers and spark arresters on lawn care equipment in proper working order and watch out for rocks and metal when mowing
· Dragging chains can start a grass fire along the road without your knowledge. A small piece of hot metal rips off the chain when it comes in contact with the pavement. When in contact with dry vegetation it can ignite a wildfire. Check to make sure your chains are secure and short enough not to drag.
And if you do start a wildfire, be prepared for the consequences. Local resident Cody Hilliard was indicted by a Wise County grand jury last December on four charges of arson of a building/habitation/vehicle reckless causing damage, a state jail felony. The indictment says Hilliard started the fire by using a burn barrel during a burn ban at the end of August last year. That fire burned more than 200 acres and destroyed several buildings and vehicles in the Paradise area.
On a somewhat related but less serious note, I need to thank our online readers, particularly our Facebook followers, for their headline suggestions regarding a wildfire last March that burned 265 acres on the LBJ National Grasslands (luckily, this one didn’t destroy any homes). Once we learned that the fire was started from someone lighting their toilet paper on fire, we couldn’t resist asking our readers for suggested headlines. We had a great response, and I ended up using a modified version of one of the suggestions for our headline: Wipe out: Burning toilet paper cause of 256-acre fire March 11.
That was one of three headlines I entered in the North and East Texas Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, and the Wise County Messenger recently received first place in the competition among twice-weekly newspapers. So thank you, readers. This award is definitely shared with you.