Forest Service Urges Extra Precautions Against Wildfires This Fall - UNL CropWatch, Oct. 12, 2012

Forest Service Urges Extra Precautions Against Wildfires This Fall - UNL CropWatch, Oct. 12, 2012

October 12, 2012

The Nebraska Forest Service says farmers, ranchers and homeowners should take extra precautions to prevent fall wildfires. The extremely dry conditions that spurred an unusually active wildfire season, the lack of rain and an increase in the amount of dead and dying foliage could pose a higher risk of wildfires.

"The drought has left much of Nebraska's landscape prone to fires, not only in forested areas but also in farm fields and around homes," said Don Westover, wildland fire protection program director. "We're urging Nebraskans to take steps to prevent dangerous wildfires this fall."

Forestry officials encourage taking extra precautions, since large fires in Nebraska are not limited to the summer months. Last October, 154 wildfires burned more than 6,000 acres; 88 of those fires were related to equipment use.

"It's not unusual for a harvest operation to start wildfires," Westover said. "Corn and soy beans are not harvested until they are dry, which creates dry fuel for a fire."

Farmers are urged to take steps to help prevent wildfires:

  • Maintain harvest equipment. Make sure it is in good operating condition so that it will operate as cool as possible.
  • Keep crop residue from accumulating on farm equipment – manifolds, ledges and other areas that become hot.
  • Start harvesting on the downwind side of the field. If a fire breaks out, it will burn the crop stubble rather than the unharvested crop.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher on board farm equipment. Fires start small, and many can be stopped before becoming a damaging wildfire.
  • Carry a cell phone and keep the local fire department's phone number programmed in your phone. The sooner you notify the fire department, the sooner a fire can be contained.

Homeowners in both urban and rural areas also need to be aware of how drought conditions have affected their landscapes. Emphasis should be placed on creating a defensible space around homes and buildings. Reduce the amount of flammable vegetation surrounding the home by removing dead vegetation, including branches, leaves, needles and twigs that are still attached to plants. Vegetation and other fuels burning near the house produce flames that contact the home and ignite it. Keep plants located near the house healthy, green and irrigated during fire season.

The publication "Living with Fire," a homeowner's guide to reducing the risk of wildfires, is available on the Nebraska Forest Service website. Separate guides are available for eastern and western Nebraska homeowners; each guide is focused on regional areas of concern. The guide includes no-cost ways to make a home fire wise. 

The Nebraska Forest Service is an affiliate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

IANR News Service