Forest officials want East Texans to become 'Firewise'

A home like this one can be in serious danger of a wildfire.
A home like this one can be in serious danger of a wildfire.
Jan Amen.
Jan Amen.

ETOILE, TX (KTRE) - By Donna McCollum - email

ETOILE, TX (KTRE) - Jan Amen spends a lot of time driving back roads helping people become Texas Firewise.

"Anytime we do an assessment for a community wildfire protection plan we have to go out and physically drive up and down each and every road of each subdivision," said Jan Amen, Texas Forest Service Wildfire Protection Coordinator.

In the Etoile area there are 12 subdivisions for at least 780 homes. They're remotely located in hilly terrain among dense corporate pine plantations. That's Jan's worry.

"This fuel is very heavy right here and it is directly connected to the fence line of the north end of New World," said Amen.

New World Subdivision still has remnants of Hurricane Ike lying around.

"All along this road there's a lot of fuel, vines, yaupon that goes all the way up into the tree tops," said Amen.

It's called "ladder fuel," just the kind of debris firefighters want to get rid of.

"'Cause if there's debris all the way up to a home, it's going to burn up to the home," said Etoile Fire Chief Andy Sanders

Teamwork is essential for Firewise. For example, take a home on Lake Sam Rayburn. It's about 20 minutes away from the closest fire station.

In that time, any one home can go up in flames. That's why homeowner David Preuss keeps a tidy yard with garden hoses and hydrants within easy reach.

"Everything is nice then you know the chance for fire are narrowed way down," said Preuss.

A mission Jan maintains as she continues to access every volunteer fire department coverage area in Nacogdoches County.

Texas Firewise involves school children to adults.

The Texas Forest Service provides a chipper to grind up the really big debris. Volunteer fire departments wanting a Firewise protection plan for their area should contact the state forest service.

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