By: M.L. Russell; Assistant Professor and Extension Range Specialist – Ecosystem Science and Management
When wildfires are approaching your property or you see smoke on the horizon, the situation can become chaotic. Preparing for wildfire response ahead of time is one of the most important steps a landowner can take. Correctly identifying property at risk, resources available, and existing wildfire barriers can greatly enhance the effectiveness of first responders. Preparation can also improve overall communication when making critical fire decisions. The following are general recommendations for information you need to have ready before wildfire response teams arrive. It can also be very helpful to discuss the questions below with your local volunteer fire department. However, this checklist is only starting point. You should develop ranch guidelines and information for first responders that are specific to your property. The answers to the questions below will be instrumental in building operations, tactics, and general firefighting techniques. A carefully thought out wildfire ready checklist is an excellent foundation for improved communication and relationship building during wildfires.
- How do you manage your fine-fuel forage?
- Are you ok with burnout operations to fight the fire?
- Are there existing barriers, such as roads, fields, bladed areas, caliche pad sites, etc., from which to anchor firing operations?
- Do you have any concerns about bulldozing the fire edge to bare mineral soil, displacing the top soil?
- Are you a weed-free area or request that trucks be washed before arrival on your ranch?
- Are you ok with any fence being cut or laid down?
Property at Risk
- Are there any high-fenced areas that are prioritized?
- Are grazing livestock near the fire or in the potential path of the fire?
- Are there any aggressive exotic wildlife species?
- Where are the structures located?
- What is the priority of those structures?
- Do you grant permission to use on-site water to fight a fire?
- What are the types of water sources?
- What type of access is there to water sources?
- What volume of water is available?
- How deep are the water sources?
- What type of ranch equipment is available to use? (e.g. sprayers or heavy equipment)
- Are there any personnel or neighbors available to assist responders?
- Do you have hard copies of aerial imagery or maps with property roads and gate locations clearly marked?
- Do you have gate lock codes? Are all gates on the property already open? If not, are you comfortable sending someone to facilitate emergency access?
- Do you have your neighbor’s contact information or gate lock codes?
- Do you have absentee landowner neighbors? If so, have you made previous contact with them and exchanged information so that they can be notified and or asked about access during an emergency?
- Are there oil and gas lines?
- Any report of H2S or other toxic gases on the property?
- Are there any rough roads not suitable for responding equipment?
- Are there damaged cattleguards?
- Are there any rested pastures with volatile fuel loads?
- Are there any deer blinds with propane tanks in them?
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Wildfire Ready Checklist
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