2009-10-22 / General Stories

Developing Fire Breaks onYour Property

Perhaps we should start by explaining what a fire break is. A fire break can be any break or gap in a fuel source. In this case the fuel is plant matter: grass, brush and trees. An example of a fire break might be a road. Now perhaps you are wondering why do I need fire breaks? Well there might be many reasons. Hopefully so that you can conduct prescribed burns on your property, that when done under the right conditions are very beneficial for wildlife habitat, but there are other benefits for having them.

Fire breaks are most often created by shredding then disking to bare ground or soil. This creates an area that has no grass or fuel for a fire to burn across. Fire breaks can be maintained either by periodic disking, spraying herbicide or even by keeping them planted in something green, such as oats in the winter. Using fire breaks as annual food plots for wildlife is a great way to get added benefit for your effort.

Maintaining fire breaks on your property can be cheap insurance should an unplanned fire occur. Burning brush piles and trash are the leading cause of escaped fires. You should be proactive to prevent property loss by protecting your property if a fire should get away from a neighbor. Chances are you have heard of ranchers who lost many bales of hay from fire. A well maintained fire break around a hay yard seems cheap compared to the expense of replacing what can be lost so easily.

Fire breaks can vary in width, depending on how tall the flame length is you need to stop. A simple way to look at it is the taller the grass, the wider the break needs to be. Let's say you have a hay field next to tall grassy field with scattered cedar trees

and briars along the fence. It will not take as wide a fire break to contain a fire moving from the hay field to the overgrown field because the flames will be shorter. If

you switch the direction of

fire travel, the same disked line next to the fence may not be sufficient. If you were down wind of such a tender-box, you could either make the fire break wider or you could simply move it away from the fence a few yards and keep the grass between the fire break and the tall fuel mowed down.

Factors that influence fire behaviors are wind speed, temperature and humidity; none of which we have control. One thing we can control is the amount and the height of fuel that is available to burn. So if you have a sensitive area you want to protect or a possible ignition source such as trash barrel or brush pile, creating a fire break around them is an easy way to reduce the chance of having a problem. Wildfires typically happen when it is hot, dry and windy so keep that in mind if you are doing anything outdoors that might create a spark.

If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at; http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.

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