Texas communities empower residents to prepare for wildfires
Following a record-setting 2011 wildfire season, Texans are taking steps to prepare for dangerous blazes. The Lone Star State recently became the first in the nation to register more than 100 communities in the Ready, Set, Go! wildfire preparedness program.
In fact, Texas has 125 registered Ready, Set, Go! communities – significantly more than any other state.
Ready, Set, Go! was introduced by the International Association of Fire Chiefs in 2010 as a tool that fire departments could use to teach citizens how to prepare for wildfire and be ready to evacuate, should the need arise. Texas was one of nine states selected to assist with the program in its developmental stages.
Texas Forest Service Wildland Urban Interface and Prevention Coordinator Justice Jones worked closely with the Huntsville Fire Department, leading it to become the first Ready, Set, Go! department in Texas. Other communities quickly followed suit, and town hall meetings were scheduled across the state to share wildfire preparedness principles.
Lucian Deaton, IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! program manager, said Texas has produced tremendous results in empowering communities to prepare for wildfire.
“Reaching this milestone shows that the fire service in Texas has taken ownership of educating its citizenry using the Ready, Set, Go! program,” Deaton said. “It’s significant because it raises awareness about wildfire danger and could save lives.”
The program has a three-pronged approach:
• Ready addresses what can be done in and around a home before a fire ignites. This includes clearing brush, leaves and firewood away from the home to create an area of “defensible space.” Families also are encouraged to develop an evacuation plan to ensure everyone knows how to get out safely and where to go.
• Set explains what to do around the house if there is a fire in the area. This could include removing lightweight curtains, moving flammable furniture to the center of the room and shutting off gas and pilot lights.
• Go refers to how to exit safely and what supplies an evacuating family might need.
Bruce Woods, prevention and mitigation department head for Texas Forest Service, said it’s a tremendous accomplishment to have 125 communities working with residents to share the program’s important preparedness messages.
“It truly is a testament to their dedication to making communities safer,” Woods said. “We hope that the use of programs like this one will continue to grow and allow Texans to be as prepared as possible for the next wildfire.”
For more information about the Ready, Set, Go! program, visit texasforestservice.tamu.edu and click on the Are You Prepared? icon or download Texas Forest Service’sPersonal Wildfire Action Plan. Agencies and organizations interested in signing up for the program should visit wildlandfirersg.org.