Texas A&M Forest Service and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are joining forces to remind Texans of simple measures to help protect their homes and families from fire.

October is Fire Prevention Month – and a good time to rake leaves, remove dead or dying vegetation and trim tree canopies. Residents are encouraged to relocate wood piles away from the home, remove combustible materials and vegetation from around and under decks, remove or prune vegetation near windows and remove dry leaves and pine needles from the yard, roof and rain gutters.

“We saw homes survive the brutal wildfires of 2011 because of actions homeowners took long before ignition occurred,” said Justice Jones, Wildland Urban Interface and prevention coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service. “It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t cost much to do a few things that could end up saving your home.”

Residents also should create and practice an evacuation plan and ensure that working smoke alarms are installed on each floor of their home, said Texas State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy.

“Homeowners can significantly increase their safety and their home’s likelihood of survival by taking a proactive approach to fire prevention and home defense,” he said. “But these measures cannot guarantee personal safety in the face of catastrophic fires, so it’s paramount to have an exit strategy.”

Fire propelled by strong winds can move as fast as 60 mph, Connealy added. When told to evacuate, residents should leave the area immediately and choose a route that leads away from the fire. Stay alert to changes in the speed and direction of fire and smoke.