Dr. Morgan Treadwell, Associate Professor in RWFM and Extension Range Specialist, reminds everyone to stay alert and cautious this Fourth of July. She also shares some tips about how you can be fire-ready and celebrate safely this holiday weekend!
Practicing Fire Safety this Fourth of July
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 19,500 reported fires are started by fireworks annually. But whether folks are setting off legal fireworks, grilling, or even just burning trash this coming weekend, wildfires don’t break for the holiday.
With Fourth of July right around the corner, Morgan Treadwell, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Range Extension Specialist wants to remind everyone to be cautious of fire hazards and celebrate safely this Fourth of July.
“Rangeland pastures are no place for fireworks,” Treadwell said. “Folks should be aware of dry rangeland conditions and the high probability of ignitions.”
The summer months make for near-prime wildfire conditions. Treadwell stated that triple-digit temperatures, lack of rainfall, low relative-humidity and high wind gusts all increase the risk of fire. Thankfully, there are indicators that signify an area is at risk for fire.
“Accumulated fine-fuel loads that are cured and dried out are a huge indicator of red flag conditions that emphasizes high wildfire chances,” Treadwell said. “If pastures have not been grazed in the last two growing seasons, odds are fine fuel accumulations are primed and ready for any type of ignition—day or night.”
Something as small as a spark could come with big costs.
The National Fire Protection Agency reported that in 2018, fireworks caused an estimated $105 million in property damage. The agency also reported that emergency rooms treat over 9,000 patients around the Fourth of July holiday every year due to firework-related injuries.
While the consequences of ignition can be severe—there are precautions that folks can take to avoid starting fires this holiday weekend.
“Be fire-ready!” Treadwell stressed. “Any outdoor activity that causes sparks should be mitigated.”
In addition to the more obvious festivities, like setting off legal fireworks or playing with sparklers—activities like target-shooting, welding, chainsaw work, parking hot engines on tall grass or driving down roads where grasses hit the undercarriage of a vehicle can all send sparks that could potentially start a fire.
In the event that a fire does occur, Treadwell says there are immediate courses of action that someone should take. Likewise, there are certain things that individuals should never do, in the event of fire.
“First and foremost, do not put you or anyone else in danger by directly attacking the fire without some type of suppression tool.”
Treadwell said that in especially high-risk conditions, like in dry grass, during hot summer months, rate-of-spread will be fast and intensity of the fire will be high. But she urges anyone who finds themselves facing fire, not to panic and to promptly alert professionals.
“Keep yourself safe and calm and wait until proper equipment and experienced first responders are on-site,” Treadwell said.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension can be an invaluable resource for those looking to better understand fire management and assess burn risk.
“Extension Range Specialists have written several resources on mitigating wildfire risk and maintaining fire-ready structures on the farm and ranch,” Treadwell said. “Many Specialists also report on current drought assessments and conditions through social media and in collaboration with County Extension Agents.”
Be smart. Be Safe. Be aware.
Landowners have the capacity to prevent fires before they happen. Treadwell said the first step to mitigating risk is becoming educated on how fires start and what can be done to avoid them.
“Realizing that fires are a part of our landscapes and that many Texas plant communities consist of fire-dependent species will enhance overall understanding of how to be safe and fire-ready this Fourth of July.”
To access free resources on wildfires and rangeland management, visit www.agrilifebookstore.org. To connect with your local agent for more information on risk and conditions in your respective county, visit https://counties.agrilife.org
For more information, contact Morgan Treadwell, Ph.D. at Morgan.Treadwell@ag.tamu.edu