With the danger of wildfires high across the state and the chances for rain low, Arkansans should be prepared in case fire threatens their homes.
“This spring and summer, we’ve seen wildfires consume hundreds, if not thousands, of acres in Arkansas,” said Deborah Tootle, associate professor, community and economic development for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
The wildfire risk is high in all 75 counties, the Arkansas Forestry Commission said. Burn bans were in place in 70 counties. Some communities are cancelling July Fourth firework displays and fire officials across the state are urging Arkansans to be extra careful with fire.
“My main concern right now is fire danger,” said Columbia County Extension agent Jerri Lephiew. “Here we are on the verge of Independence Day. Grills, campfires and fireworks are all very dangerous elements to us right now.”
Those who live in areas with the potential for wildfires should clear a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around the house, which means removing flammable vegetation, keeping the lawn mowed and make sure there are no branches overhanging the roof, according to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, or ADEM.
“If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice,” said Tommy Jackson, spokesman for ADEM. “Homeowners should contact a forester or fire department for more information.”
However, even the best safety zone may not be enough.
“Be prepared to evacuate,” Tootle said. She recommends having an evacuation kit, or a “go-kit,” or a “bug-out bag,” ready with enough supplies for the family. The bag should include water, non-perishable foods, clothes, medications, a flashlight, radio, first aid kit and sanitation supplies. Maps are also a good idea.
“Don’t forget insurance and financial records,” she said. “If disaster does hit your home, you will need all of that information.”
Some tips from the Los Angeles Fire Department:
- Back your car in the garage heading out with windows closed. Be sure to keep keys handy so that you can evacuate quickly should it become necessary.
- Close the garage door, leave it unlocked, and disconnect automatic door opener in the case of power failure.
- Keep a flashlight and portable radio and stay tuned to a local news station.
- Shut off gas valves.
- Close all windows and doors to prevent sparks from blowing inside the house.
- Attach garden hoses to faucets and place them where all areas of the house can be reached.
For more information on trees and pests, contact your county Extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.