Texas Forest Service crews are beginning work to remove hazardous vegetation in the Davis Mountains resort area of West Texas to try to prevent a repeat of one of the state’s largest-ever wildfires two years ago.
On Feb. 4, teams began using hand tools to thin and prune trees and make what’s known as shaded fuel breaks along roads used for evacuation.
Breaks are used to help stop or slow down wildfires by removing the vegetation, which serves as fuel for the fire. A shaded fuel break often is constructed in a forested area, where trees are thinned and pruned but retain some canopy. Such a break can help keep surface fires from spreading into tree tops, which increases fire intensity.
Forest Service official Phillip Truitt says the shaded breaks also make it safer for firefighters and provide a way out for area residents.
A fire in April 2011 burned more than 300,000 acres in Jeff Davis and Presidio counties, then two months later another fire claimed 12,000 acres. And last May, another 23,000 acres were burned in a wildfire.
Community residents began working with Texas A&M Forest Service a couple of years ago with a goal of becoming Firewise, a national designation bestowed on communities that actively work to reduce wildfire risks. To earn Firewise status, communities must assess the hazards in their community, form a committee, develop an action plan and hold a community work day.