With more houses being built on the rural outskirts of the city, the Harker Heights Fire Department wants people to be aware of how they can keep their homes safe from fire.

On Saturday, the fire department and Texas A&M Forest Science held a wildfire awareness event at Harker Heights Community Park to give residents tips on wildfire prevention.

“All of these houses in this area are hard for our firefighters to rescue,” said Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Gallenstein, pointing to homes in Stillhouse Hollow Estates along Farm-to-Market 2410.

“There’s only one dirt road that leads to this home.”

Stillhouse Hollow Estates is about nine miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

The large homes sitting on hills in the housing development worry Gallenstein.

Some of the homes are surrounded by tall trees, have wooden decks and only one escape route — a quarter-mile dirt road surrounded by dry grass.

“There’s no way we can save those houses if a fire would occur,” said Mary Kay Hicks, fire preventive specialist with the Texas Forestry Service.

“We could send our firefighters to risk their lives to save the people. Luckily, we have these strong-hearted people who want to go to the fire instead of run away from it. But we won’t send them to risk their lives for the house,” she said.

At Saturday’s event, a large map zoomed in on the high-risk wildfire areas near Harker Heights. Ten feet away, a Bastrop County Complex video of 2011’s massive fire played with reminders about wildfire dangers, and a table was stacked with brochures about keeping homes safe from fire.

According to the Texas A&M Ready, Set, Go! brochure, decks should be constructed of heavy timber or other nonflammable materials and roads should have at least a 10-foot clearance and allow for two-way traffic.

“I didn’t know that in case of an evacuation, I should shut off the air conditioner,” said Heights resident Lori O’Brien. “I learned a lot here.”

Herald/Mary Mejia

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