Homeowners Get Access to Fire Risk Assessment Data For The First Time
As we head into what's expected to be another hot and dry summer, the Texas Forest Service is unveiling a website that gives homeowners a leg up on fighting wildfires.
The Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal — found at www.texaswildfirerisk.com — will also allow homeowners and government planners and elected officials to zero in on wildfire risks and create community fire plans.
Federal officials said the 2012 fire season is likely to be just as active as last year's, when millions of acres were destroyed across the Southwest.
Forecasters with the National Interagency Fire Center said conditions are a little different this year. A lack of moisture in many places has resulted in fewer fine fuels on the ground, and the strong winds that pushed many of last year's fires are not expected to be as relentless.
State officials had been planning the TxWRAP site long before Texas was hit by devastating wildfires that destroyed nearly 3,000 homes. The Bastrop County fires alone destroyed 33,000 acres and 1,600 homes and claimed two lives.
"The goal is to have information in the hands of communities so they can take steps to reduce the risks in their areas," said Curt Stripling, a Texas Forest Service geographic information systems specialist who was instrumental in the website's development. The site, heavy with maps rating fire danger by color, cost $500,000 to develop and was three years in the making, officials said.
Though the sophisticated website is geared mostly toward government officials and firefighters, there is a "public view" feature that homeowners can access.
"If I'm a homeowner, I will be able to learn of potential risks in my neighborhood," Stripling said. "It will take a person five minutes to learn to go through it. It has a tour option to learn it."
Fire risk is searchable by location — by city, region, neighborhood or street address. When a high danger area is detected, homeowners are provided information on how to reduce risks