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Wildfires are burning in Central Texas. Here's how to prepare.

Law enforcement direct traffic away from the Rolling Pines fire on Jan. 18, near Bastrop State Park.
Michael Minasi
Law enforcement direct traffic away from the Rolling Pines fire on Jan. 18, near Bastrop State Park.

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It’s hot and dry in Central Texas right now, which means there’s a high chance a wildfire could easily spark.

By following a few tips, you can be prepared for the worst-case scenario if you have to evacuate your home, as nearly 200 households in Williamson County did last weekend.

Make an evacuation plan

Walter Flocke with Texas A&M Forest Service said it’s critical to have an emergency evacuation plan for yourself and your family. This includes establishing multiple exit points, deciding where everyone in your home should meet and figuring out where you'd stay while an evacuation order is in place.

“Planning an evacuation route before there’s a fire, that really takes away some of that stress, some of that panic that often comes with events like these,” he said.

Also, make sure you’re signed up for emergency notifications from whatever county you live in. And follow reliable sources on social and legacy media. Flocke said in these situations, it’s important to have access to the latest information.

Build an emergency kit

Flocke said you’ll want to have a bag at the ready in case you need to evacuate. Here are some things you should pack it with according to

  • Water
  • Food 
  • A battery-powered radio
  • A flashlight
  • A first aid kit
  • Batteries
  • A whistle
  • A dust mask
  • A can opener
  • A map
  • A cellphone charger

“Keep it simple,” Flocke said. “We don’t need to be packing everything up. We just need to have a simple bag or box that you can immediately grab and immediately get to a safe area.”

When in doubt, follow CAL Fire’s six “P’s”: people and pets; papers and phone numbers; prescriptions; pictures; personal computer hard drive; and finally plastics, like credit cards.

Prepare your home

You can prepare your home for a wildfire, too.

Flocke said homeowners can modify their landscaping to use more native species that are drought resistant. Also, make sure dead leaf piles are picked up or aren’t staying in the gutter. Cleaning up tree limbs that are near the ground is also a good way to help keep your home safe, he said.

He said people can put screens on their vents that are about an eighth of an inch thick, which can help to stop embers from spreading through the attic and other areas of the house.

People can visit for more information and tips.

Know preventable actions you can take

Texas has been in a fire season almost all year, with 6,919 fires burning 598,224 acres from Jan. 1 to July 25, Flocke said. And with nearly 99% of the state in a drought and the extreme heat, a fire can easily get sparked. Flocke said nine out of 10 fires in the state are caused by humans, but they can be prevented.

Many fires are started by lawn mowers, welding, other heavy equipment use or even driving through tall grass, he said. People regularly using this type of equipment should “triple check” it, Flocke said, and make sure that it’s well-maintained and not overheating or leaking.

“We need to be extremely cautious and very careful,” he said. “Anything we can do to prevent that spark from occurring and starting that wildfire, we need to do because it has the potential to become a large wildfire in these conditions.”

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