Community Recognized for Wildfire Preparedness

A suburban community north of Houston is getting national recognition for the steps it's taking to reduce its vulnerability to wildfires. It's the first community in Texas to get this recognition, as Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Windsor Hills, in Montgomery County, is out on the edge of Greater Houston, in the area known as the Urban-Wilderness Interface, where the houses meet the forest. It's also the first community in Texas to win a National Firewise Communities award for being proactive in protecting itself from wildfire danger. Justice Jones at the Texas Forest Service says the people of Windsor Hills live in area where wildfires can happen anytime, because it was a rural forest just a few years ago.

"There's an increasing trend for urban dwellers to want to capture the lifestyle of a rural setting. Unfortunately what happens is that, as they move into outlying areas of communities, so do other residents wanting to take advantage of that lifestyle, and they're moving into areas that are historically prone to experiencing wildfires."

Jones says last year's statistics show how vulnerable many Texas towns and communities are during the fire season. Last year's statistics are eye openers.

"85 percent of the fires that occurred were within two and a half miles of a community."

He says that's why people who live in the far out suburbs need to remember they're not in the city anymore, and the fire department may not be right right around the corner. They need to be able to protect their property no matter how long it takes firefighters to get to them, and it's better to do it before the fire season. He says a community that wants the prestigious National Firewise Communities award will create committees and sponsor events that raise public awareness of fire danger.

"They also have to participate in a project once a year to reduce hazardous vegetation in and around the community, and collectively they have to contribute two dollars per capita to those efforts."

Jones says the people of Windsor Hills have done all that and more, and he and other state forest service officials will travel to Windsor Hills tomorrow to honor them with the Firewise Communities award in person. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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