A myth is defined as “a widely held but false belief or idea, a misrepresentation of the truth, an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing.” With the ever-increasing wildfire events around the United States and local fires at Bastrop, Steiner Ranch, and elsewhere, the public’s awareness of the dangers of these events have become significant neighborhood topics of conversations and actions. These conversations have uncovered myths regarding wildfires and what we can and can’t do to protect ourselves. Key myths are outlined in the 2014 City of Austin and Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. We paraphrase and discuss them below.
Myth 1: “I am helpless to protect my home and property from the raging beast of wildfire.” Fact: Reducing fuel around the home can reduce or prevent home ignitions in more than 50 percent of homes impacted by wildfire. The home itself and the Home ignition Zone within the property lines are under the control of the homeowner. We have provided a lot of information through the newsletter, all now on the NWACA web site, guiding NWACA neighbors on actions to take to reduce the fuels around their homes and actions to harden their homes to significantly reduce the spread of wildfire.
Myth 2: “Wildfire is like a flood or tsunami, engulfing everything in its path.” Fact: Fire burns only where there is fuel to sustain it; brush and other fuels can be eliminated or significantly reduced to help in protecting your property and home.
Myth 3: “The fire department will protect my home.” Fact: Fire departments lack the resources to protect every home when a fast-moving wildfire and associated spot fires simultaneously threaten dozens of homes. As many of you are probably aware, the Austin Fire Department and affiliated agencies have been directly involved with NWACA and its members for some years in helping us to understand wildfires and what we can and what we cannot do to strengthen and protect our neighborhoods from this danger. And the AFD has been very active in successful fighting residential fires in our neighborhoods over the past several years, keeping these fires under control…BUT, their resources are limited and we must do what we can with our own properties to help the fire department be successful.
Myth 4: “Insurance will take care of it.” Fact: Insurance won’t compensate for lost family mementos, time spent rebuilding the home and replacing possessions, stress of temporary relocation, and so forth. It is strongly recommended that you read very carefully your home and property insurance policies and your life insurance and know what IS covered and what is NOT covered. Once the fire has occurred, it is too late to make adjustments. Be aware that unprotected live ammo in a home can default your insurance policy; have a fire-rated gun safe and put ALL OF YOUR AMMO into that gun safe or keep it somewhere outside of the house. Take photographs/video of your home and all of your valuable, cherished belongings, and keep the photographs/videos updated and in a safety-deposit box in a bank! Be sure your appraisals are current to document the true values of your belonging that will have to be replaced or accounted for, and be sure the appraisals are also in the bank’s safety deposit box.
Myth 5: “A Firewise landscape consists entirely of rock and cacti.” Fact: A Firewise landscape can include trees and lush landscape plants, provided careful attention is paid to placement, spacing, and maintenance. NWACA has volunteer Wildfire Risk Assessors who can come to your homes, observe the outside of your home and the landscaping and make suggestions to make both as safe as is possible. Remember, the Home Ignition Zone within your property lines (generally 30 feet from the house) is the place where you have the control of protecting your own home. Assessments are free of charge and take less than an hour, walking with you around your property.