During the weekend of February 11th, my wife (who wants to be cyberly anonymous) and I celebrated our 24th anniversary in the Hill Country of Texas. While my wife was interested in the chick shops in Wimberley, TX, I was interested in the landscape of the Hill County which is markedly different from SW Louisiana.
Hill County has rocky soils with scrubby trees while we have a lot less stones and many more tall trees. I saw a few cattle, a few goats, and a sign for alpacas, but little else regarding agriculture. The only forest products I saw was a small woodyard stacking mesquite posts.
As a former firefighter, I was also intrigued with how close homeowners have allowed the scrub cedar and other trees to grow near their homes. It seemed as if these folks were living in a sea of gasoline given how volatile these small trees are when ignited.
Southwest Louisiana is similar to the Hill Country in one aspect. Folks who build their homes in the woods are susceptible to losing their homes to wildfire because of the trees with resinous content are close by. These evergreen trees would pose a dangerous threat to any improved property.
Our friends at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) recognize the danger of wildfires destroying rural homes and participate in the “Louisiana Firewise” program which educates homeowners and volunteer firefighters on how to make homes safer and more fire resistant. This link, http://www.ldaf.state.la.us/portal/Offices/Forestry/InformationEducationUrbanForestry/LouisianaFirewise/tabid/245/Default.aspx, discusses the need for vigilance by citizens to protect their property. There is also information on whom to contact on becoming “Firewise”.
Another source of information for protecting rural home is www.firewise.org. This website provides online educational materials to aid homeowners, firefighters, and even educators in self-protection. The topics include which materials on a home are susceptible to fire and which are resistance. Another topic includes how to manage vegetation for a “defensible space” which will better ensure a structure’s survival from a wildfire.
After two years of record drought in southwest Louisiana, homeowners need to examine their own vulnerability with respect to wildfire and to avail themselves of resources to help them and their property to survive a fire event.