by Chuck Loeffler

The Bent Tree Log - March 1998


Every year many families loose their home and belongings to the ravages of fire.  In urban settings the fires are usually restricted to a single dwelling.  In more rural settings, such as Bent Tree, wildfires can sometimes burn large areas, and destroy many properties.  Those of us who have chosen to enjoy the open space and privacy of this setting must take extra precautions, and do whatever we can to minimize the chances of catastrophic fires.  So, pursuant to the article in the March 1997 Bent Tree Log, I would like to present a few tips and reminders about fire prevention in and around your home.


Let's start by looking at how you can minimize fire danger on your lot, in the open space around your home.  Most lots in Bent Tree have a considerable amount of standing fuel in the form of trees.  By applying certain forest management practices we can reduce the chances of fires sweeping though these areas:


1.         Annually pick up and remove fallen deadwood on your lot to reduce the amount of available fuel that would carry a ground fire.


2.         Trim dead branches off of the bottom six to eight feet of your trees.  This will reduce the possibility of ground fires spreading to crowns of trees.


3.         Selectively thin dense stands of trees.  This should be done according to a forest management plan, and consider other factors, such as health of trees, wildlife habitat values, aesthetics, and covenant restrictions.


4.         Create a "defensible space" (space which provides protection from fire reaching your house), approx. 30 to 50 feet wide, depending on slope of the land, around your house by keeping the area reasonably clear of fire hazards such as dead vegetation, dense shrubs & stands of trees, etc.


There are additional fire prevention measures you can take on the outside of your house:


1.         Trim any tree limbs that touch the house or extend over the roof.


2.         Clean pine needles and pine cones out of the gutters on a regular basis.  These can be ignited by fire brands during forest fires, or by sparks from a chimney.


3.         Don't store firewood, lumber, or other combustibles immediately adjacent to the house.


4.         Make sure that there is adequate access from the road to your house for fire trucks.  Tight turns in driveways, low hanging tree limbs, and dense stands of trees can be obstacles to fire fighting equipment.


5.         Have your street address number clearly displayed on your mailbox, so fire fighters and other emergency personnel can easily locate your residence.


6.         Your house should have at least two external water faucets, and two 100' water hoses should be stored in a safe and convenient location for use in case of fire.


The inside of your home also needs to be considered when it comes to fire prevention:


1.         Instal smoke detectors, and keep them in good working order.


2.         If you use a wood burning stove or fireplace, keep furniture, rugs, etc. an adequate distance away from the stove or fireplace, and use spark screens.


3.         Always place fireplace & stove ashes in a metal can, and store the can away from flammable materials.


4.         Store all flammable materials (i.e. gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, etc.) in a proper container and in a safe location.


5.         Keep several fire extinguishers in convenient locations, and check them annually to assure they are properly charged.


6.         Replace damaged electrical cords and electrical appliances, and don't overload electrical circuits.


7.         Be familiar with the location of your electrical circuit breakers and gas shutoff valves, so you can quickly shut off gas and electricity in case of a fire.


These are just an example of some of the measures you can take to assure your safety and help prevent house fires and wildfires.  The most important rule of all is COMMON SENSE.


There are numerous sources from which you can get additional and more detailed information about fire prevention and safety.  Local fire departments are all glad to provide information upon request.


May you and your families have a safe and enjoyable fall and winter!