The 2011 wildfire season in Texas saw some staggering numbers; 31,453 wildfires burned over 4 million acres across the state, resulting in 2,947 homes lost. Justice Jones, with the Texas Forest Service and the Austin Fire Department presented at Backyards and Beyond this afternoon about these wildfires and some of the lessons learned. Weather, population, and changes in land use are all factors of the fire regime in Texas. 70% of Texas wildfires are caused by humans, 41% of the population lives in the WUI, and 80% of wildfires occur within two miles of a community which make it important to find common denominators among wildfires to learn how to best protect against them.
Some of these common denominators determined by looking at all 2011 wildfires in Texas include embers, structure to structure ignition, combustible attachments, windows not designed to withstand heat, landscaping (mulch, cured grasses, landscape timbers), and secondary fuels leading to loss after the main fire has passed.
There are also many barriers to the fire spread however, including driveways, retaining walls, stand alone structures and Firewise principles at work. Austin makes sure to educate the population on each of these to help them prepare. They have also learned to pair the fire preparation message with the fire prevention message, because they realize the fire service can't always protect every home, but each member of the community is a potential fire starter AND fire fighter.