How to protect your ranch from wildfire

COLLEGE STATION, Texas –When a wildfire rages toward your property, there might not be much time to protect you, your family, your pets, your land and your livestock. Being prepared can help avoid some devastating losses.

In late February a wildfire threatened a small family ranch owned by Lady Chachi Hawkins of Alpine. With little time to prepare, she moved her cattle to a safer pasture. Fortunately, the local fire department was able to slow the fire before it reached ranch headquarters. Out-of-state crews working for Texas Forest Service arrived later that night and, over the next four days, firefighters and ranchers worked to put the fire out.

Although grazing areas and a fence were burned in the fire, Hawkins considers herself lucky. The fire spared livestock and buildings on the ranch, which has been in her family for more than 100 years.

Here are some tips on how to protect your property:

For grazing areas

  • Make sure all water sources are in good repair and working at maximum capacity and that all storage tanks are full.
  • Consider loading sprayers with water.
  • Have a fire action plan that describes specific duties for each person in case of a wildfire.It wouldn’t hurt to have a fire drill every few months.
  • Create and maintain a current map of the ranch that shows boundary lines, fences and water sources. Show locations of all structures, several different “escape routes” off the property and a safe place to meet in the event of a wildfire or other disaster.
  • Have handy contact information for neighbors, authorities, etc., and have a local phone book in every vehicle.
  • Be sure all flashlights have fresh batteries and put one in every vehicle.
  • Be sure all satellite phones stay charged.

For home/headquarters:

  • Create and maintain 30 to 100 feet of defensible space between any structure and vegetated areas.
  • All vehicles should be gassed up and ready to move quickly. Trailers should also be ready to transport cattle.
  • Make sure all local firefighting organizations are familiar with the location of the ranch and the headquarters.

There are many more things ranchers and even homeowners can do to reduce their chance of suffering wildfire losses. Most don’t cost much and just take a little time and effort. For more information, please visitn



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