The Harker Heights Fire Department wants to ensure residents are prepared in case a wildfire ignites in the area,

The department will launch a set of free community-based programs this summer - Firewise Communities and Ready, Set, Go! - to equip citizens with the skills and knowledge they need to protect their homes and property from wildfire.

“These programs have been around for a while and recently have come to light in Texas with the recent Bastrop fires,” said Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Gallenstein. “In Bastrop, we lost a lot of houses and had some deaths because of the wild land fires.”

Bastrop was ravaged by wildfire nearly two years ago. Rural areas like Bastrop are more at risk because of their higher “fuel” loads, Gallenstein said, referring to dry, dead foliage.

“People move out to those areas because they like the atmosphere, the trees and wildlife, but with that comes the dangers of wild land fires.”

Grass fires are common in Harker Heights, because of major drought in recent years, Gallenstein said.

“When it gets hot we will have multiple levels of fuel load ready to burn, and when it catches it could go very fast and go up a hill within minutes.”

Gallenstein said most wildfire reports stem from land near Stillhouse Hollow Lake Reservoir.

“We get some large fires by the lake and that’s where we plan on doing most of our education, because that’s the area that will be most heavily involved.”

Agencies like the Texas Forestry Service will also participate in the programs. Gallenstein said participants will learn about creating defensible spaces around their homes, cleaning out their gutters, and other small things that can be done to prevent homes from being destroyed in wildfires.

“They will learn what materials to use around the house, like sheds, decking ... plants and landscaping to use, along with what you need to take with you (in the event of a fire).”

The programs will also help residents plan escape routes and create checklists of items needed if wildfires break out.

For more information, call HHFD at (254) 699-2688.


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