MIDLAND - With news of fires raging across West Texas and consuming homes, it's important to know how you can help protect your home and keep a fire from starting near it, so NewsWest 9 teamed up with a Midland Fire Inspector.
James Howard has served with the Midland Fire Department for 15 years. He invited NewsWest 9 into his home to find out ways you can protect your home from a fire.
The advice he gives is to create an environment around your home that gives no fuel to the flames.
"A place to try to stop that fire before it spreads to your home," Howard said.
Interesting enough, one of the first places to start is a chore that many dread: cleaning the gutters.
"If there's any kind of combustibles, dried leaves, branches left in those gutters, embers will land up there and then they'll ignite that which will spread to your roof," Howard said.
Other ways are right in the backyard, clearing any fuel directly along your home's walls.
That means getting rid of tall weeds, tumbleweeds blowing around and moving any piles of firewood as far from the home as possible.
Another tip is for trees.
"Try to keep the low-hanging branches about 15 feet from ground level," Howard continued.
He told NewsWest 9 that danger is especially high for homes in rural interface areas, as in where the city has expanded into what used to be a rural area.
He has experience with that as he has an empty field right behind his home.
"Up very near the home, and that's really where our problem starts," Howard said. "This clear area is an example. Try to limit the height of the vegetation and keep that away from your home. This is going to give you a good barrier to be able to stop that fire."
A good rule is to keep nearby vegetation trimmed and down within 30 feet of your home, or let that distance be three times the height of the vegetation.
In the event of a fire, Howard said it's very important to have a plan with a place to meet and knowledge of the exits out of your home and community.
In case of evacuation, he said pack the essentials.
"Purse and wallet," Howard said. "Other than that, medications, identification, and money. That's all I would worry about because when it's time to evacuate, you're going to have to leave quickly."
He hopes West Texans will do what they can to give themselves a better chance against the blaze.
Another tip if a fire is farther away but not endangering your home, you don't want floating embers to burn anything, so you can spray your yards and fence with your garden hose to keep them wet.