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PREPARING FOR WILDFIRES
  • WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE: COMMUNITIES IN ACTION

     

    Wildfires swept across Texas in 2011, burning nearly 4 million acres. News reports showed communities where hundreds of homes were destroyed. But the story most Texans didn’t hear was that more than 39,000 homes were saved - able to survive a wildfire, often without the benefit of firefighting resources. The reality that many residents face unknowingly is that, under extreme conditions, there just aren’t enough resources to protect every home.
    Reducing the amount of vegetation or fuel around homes and communities while using ignition resistant building material is the best defense in protecting people, homes and property from a wildfire. Several proactive communities have successfully mitigated wildfire risk by addressing these issues.

     

     

    Click on the success stories below to learn more.

     


     + Walker County

    Initiated back in 2005, community leaders in Walker County (PDF, 2.5MB) developed the first county-wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (PDF, 22MB) in Texas. Their mission was to identify wildfire risks, create mitigation strategies and devise a plan that would empower residents to protect their homes and property.

     

    Walker_County

     

    “It sounded like a lot of work,” said John Hobbs, Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Huntsville. “But we believed in it. We worked really well together. To make it work, you have to get a partner. Texas A&M Forest Service knows how to get people motivated and educated. And really, it’s for the safety of your own home. It’s protecting your home, your community.” 

    Securing Funds

    Walker County, with technical assistance from TFS Wildland Urban Interface staff, applied for and received the first grant for wildfire hazard mitigation in the state’s history. They used the funds to clear 200 feet of defensible space around the perimeter of Elkins Lake.
     
     
    Elkins Lake Firewise Community Recognition Ceremony
     
    Representatives from the U.S. Forest Service and TFS joined Walker County and Huntsville officials to celebrate the Elkins Lake community’s Firewise designation on May 19, 2012. The USFS worked to ensure that out of 13 southern states vying for funding, the Elkins Lake project was deemed top priority. Because the community is surrounded by USFS and private lands, it took a joint effort to implement the fuels reduction project.
     
     
    “Due to the number of homes and families in Elkins Lake, fuel mitigation is important to reduce their risk,” Jordan Beakley, a fuels and prevention specialist with USFS, said. “We felt this project would be extremely beneficial.
     
     
     + The City of Cedar Hill

    The city of Cedar Hill worked to create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (PDF, 22MB) and implement mitigation strategies (PDF, 1MB). Finished in 2010, the CWPP identified high risk areas within city limits and potential fuels reduction projects.

     

    Cedar Hill Fuels Reduction Before

     

    In 2013, a fuels reduction project using TFS saw crews and a mulching machine worked with Cedar Hill and Northwood University, a Firewise Community, to complete a shaded fuel break with the goal of lowering the intensity of a wildfire, improving firefighter/public safety, and improving emergency ingress and egress. Cedar Hill Fire Chief John Ballard discusses the benefits of a CWPP and need for fuels reduction.

     

    Cedar Hills Fuels Reduction After

     + Bastrop County

    Initiated in 2007, community leaders and emergency management agencies partnered with cooperators such as Fire Citizens Advisory Panel, Lower Colorado River Authority and Bastrop County School Districts to form specialized task forces that worked together with the primary goal to develop a comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan (PDF, 22MB). Though the CWPP process of performing risk assessments to identify the wildland fire risk areas in the county, the working group developed mitigation plans to reduce the risk to life and property from wildfires in Bastrop County.

     

    Bastrop County Fuels Reduction

    The CWPP also identified a critical Houston Toad habitat (endangered species) and the area in Bastrop County that is home to the Lost Pines. This working group took it a step further and included the Fire Regime and Condition Class into the plan. 

     

    Bastrop County Fuels Reduction around a community

     

    “It was a long process that culminated with a comprehensive plan that was approved and signed by the Bastrop County Commissioners Court on June 23, 2008,” Mike Fisher, Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator, said. “By bringing in partners that are not traditionally part of emergency response I feel we developed a strong plan that included everything from fire response preplans to evacuation plans that identified shelters and mechanisms for accountability.” 

    Bastrop County’s CWPP has been recognized as a driving force in the success of evacuating nearly 5,000 people in four hours during the 2011 Bastrop County Complex Wildfire. 

     

     

     + The City of Borger

    In the Texas Panhandle, the City of Borger knows all too well about the wildfire risk in and around their community. Borger is a Firewise Community and actively mitigates for future wildfires.

     

    Borger reducing understory and ladder fuels

     

    “Most cities have a wildland urban interface. As firefighters, city planners and city officials, it is our responsibility to protect and educate our citizens about wildfire risks,” Borger Fire Chief Bob Watson said. “The Firewise Communities program is a great tool to jump start the public and firefighters to mitigate around the city.” 

     

    Borger using prescribed fire to reduce risk

     

    Borger is proactive in reducing wildfire risks with the completion of annual fuels projects and incorporating prescribed fire into the landscape.

     

     + State-Wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan Grant

    The purpose of this grant program is to encourage the development of community wide protection plans and mitigation projects for fuels reduction. These funds are being provided through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and is subject to the provisions contained in 2 CFR 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (www.ecfr.gov/). 

    Eligible CWPP grant applicants are local county or community governments in the State of Texas who have been identified by TFS for funding based on the intent to develop a new CWPP or update an existing CWPP. Private or non-profit organizations are not eligible for grant funds. 

    Applications will be accepted until all funds have been awarded. Early applications are encouraged. Priority will be given to applications received prior ot October 15, 2015.

    Download Application