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Hot Dry Summer Sets Stage for Potentially Dangerous Wildfire Season

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An early start of scorching temperatures and a lack of rainfall is placing much of Texas under high wildfire conditions.  The Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) has identified many areas of Texas, including central Texas, and portions of north and southwestern Texas, as being under moderate to severe drought and at risk of danger for wildfires. 

TFS spokesman Phillip Truitt says conditions will worsen rapidly if the areas don’t receive substantial rainfall soon.  Truitt says some areas near Abilene and in the Texas hill country are “dry as a bone”.

“These areas have a lot of dry grass and plenty of fuel for wildfires,” said Pruitt.  “Low humidity, strong winds and continued dry conditions could make for some very dangerous situations.”

This past weekend, central Texas firefighters battled grass fires while some area residents were urged to evacuate their homes.  Pruitt recommended that residents living in rural areas make contact with their fire departments to realize what protection they have and steps they made need to take to provide their own protection. 

Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas, says the upcoming 4th of July holiday could make the wildfire situation worse.

“Most cities have laws forbidding the use of fireworks within their city limits, which sends fireworks enthusiasts out into the countryside,” said Hanna.  “People need to realize how dry the conditions are and use some common sense with any kind of fireworks that could start a fire.”

If you live in a rural area, farm and ranch homes may be miles away from volunteer fire stations.  In addition to checking your coverage, you should also take steps to protect your home in the event of a wildfire. 

“We lose more homes from burning embers landing on roofs than we do from homes being directly hit by flames,” said Pruitt.  “That’s why removing dead leaves and vegetation from roofs and gutters is so important.”

In 2011, massive wildfires struck Bastrop and Palo Pinto Counties causing loss of life and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.  The Bastrop fire, which was the eighth costliest fire in United States history, burned more than 34,000 acres, causing $530 million in losses, and unfortunately killed two and injured twelve.  Texas has continued to experience thousands of wildfires each year. For example, according to information from the Insurance Information Institute, in 2017, Texas ranked first in the nation for the number of wildfires.

The Insurance Council of Texas recommends homeowners take these steps to protect yourself and family members and to mitigate wildfire losses.

·         Have every family member aware of an evacuation plan.

·         Establish a perimeter around the home that provides little to no fuel for any wildfire.

·         Remove all dead leaves and vegetation from both the roof and under the deck of your home. 

·         Make sure trees, shrubs and grass are trimmed to prevent the spread of flames.

Given the high risk of fire throughout Texas, we urge homeowners to check their insurance policies for coverage amounts. Typically, homeowners’ policies include fire coverage dwelling and your personal property.  You need to make sure you have enough coverage in place to rebuild your home, if destroyed by fire, and to replace your valuables. Also, make an inventory of your valuables to help expedite the process in the event you have a fire and have to file a claim for your personal property. If you have any questions about your policy coverage amounts, check with your insurer and/or your insurance agent.

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