This summer, New Mexico and Colorado were scorched by record breaking fires: the biggest in New Mexico’s history and the most damaging in Colorado history. We all remember the fires in Texas last summer. It has been one year since the devastating fires in Bastrop. Last year, Texas had more than 30,000 wildfires, and almost 3,000 homes and 4 million acres were burned.
Central Texas is still in a drought. Any rains we might have this fall will not be enough to mitigate the long term impact of this two year drought. Yesterday I toured several very dry pastures I have watched for many years. The lovely fern encrusted springs are all dry. The stock tanks are either dry or have a puddle of muddy green water. This indicates that our ground water is extremely low. We must not forget how vulnerable we are in this area of juniper (cedar) breaks and dry grass. We are in a drought!
Blanco County Commissioners have declared a burn ban for the county. Blanco Master Gardeners are encouraging the citizens in our area to be aware of the potential danger of fire and to take steps to protect their property. Numerous studies have shown that with a few and inexpensive changes, a house can survive a wildfire. The Forest Service has determined that for wildfires, most house fires are started by embers igniting combustible material around the outside or the house.
Here are just a few tips with more to come in the following weeks. Cooking outdoors or burning trash: make absolutely certain embers are completely out. Welding: especially fencing, have someone without a face mask to watch for sparks and have water on hand. Around the house: clean gutters and roof valleys of all debris and move any ignition hazards such as firewood at least 30 feet from the house. Landscaping: create a “fire safe space” around the house and out buildings. Prune large trees so that the lowest branches are at least 6-10 feet from the ground. Remove any flammable plants such as the native ashe juniper (aka cedar), holly and other junipers.
In October, the Master Gardeners will be offering Fall Education Classes at the Fair Grounds. One class will be a Firewise Class with many tips on fire prevention. Other classes will be Plant Propagation, Rainwater Catchment, Drip Irrigation, Proper Pruning, and Earthkind landscaping. The classes will be offered Saturday, October 20. Lunch will be provided for $5. Save the date!