Texas Forest Service EXPO

The Texas Forest Service says the destruction caused by the California wildfires is a timely reminder of what can happen out where development and wilderness come together. Texas has plenty of places like that, and plenty of wildfires every year. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The technical term for these areas is the Urban Wildland Interface; where development ends and wilderness begins.ξ Texas Forest Service spokesman Justice Jones says it's where wildfires cause the most destruction.

"The urban interface is a situation where you have homes and wildlands, or forested grassland areas, that mix and intermingle with human improvements such as homes and commercial development. It's right there at the fringe, where you have the largest potential for a wildfire."

Jones says the most costly destruction in California is in that interface area, where homes and undeveloped land blend together.ξ There's an unlimited supply of dry wild fuel to feed the fires, and as the fires spread out of control, homes and everything else in their path become part of that fuel supply. Jones says the same thing happens in Texas almost every year.

"I'm not sure that we would have fire on that scale, but we certainly have the risk and potential for catastrophic fires as displayed by our 2005 and 2006 fire seasons, where we burned over two million acres and lost almost 800 homes, and our firefighting resources were actively combatting fires for over 500 days."

The point, Jones says, is that people who live in suburban wooded areas, whether they're on the Urban Wildland Interface or not, need to take specific steps to protect their property from wildfires, and that's why the TFS is holding its first ever Texas Forest EXPO today and tomorrow in Conroe.ξ

"To provide homeowners and community leaders with the tools and resources that they need to prepare for a wildfire before it happens, because that's really the only opportunity you have to be effective in mitigating a wildfire risk.ξ Once the fire occurs, your only option is almost always just to evacuate."

The EXPO features free workshops and classes on landscaping, managing vegetation and other things that protect property from wildfires and erosion, without detracting from its natural beauty. The EXPO continues through tomorrow at the Lone Star Convention Center in Conroe. There's a link to the EXPO on our website KUHF.org.ξ Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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