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Rolling Pines Fire

Unit Information

Texas A&M Forest Service
College Station, TX 77845

Defensible Space made a significant difference

Rolling Pines Fire Wildfire
Announcements – 1/21/2022

 The neighborhood that was surrounded by the fire, Pine Hill Estates, is a good example of a community developed in the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI. Fighting fire in the WUI is becoming more common and provides its own set of challenges to firefighters. Wildfires that move out of rural or “wild” areas into the WUI can cause safety hazards from unknown chemicals, objects buried in the ground, and unknown situations around every corner. Due to these hazards, houses are often triaged to ensure firefighter safety when the fire affects these areas. These levels range from Stand Alone, where the house requires no work to be fine, to Rescue Drive By, where it is unsafe for firefighters to stay when the flame front passes and instead must rush in after the flames pass to put out any fires around or on the structure. In Pine Hill Estates many of the structures were classified as Prep and Stay, where firefighters can do some work and it's safe enough to stay, or Prep and Leave, where a little work can be done before firefighters need to move on for safety. Both of these categories are due to the defensible space that individual homeowners have made around their houses. Defensible space is created by removing combustible materials and changing the continuity of fuels so that fire doesn’t have a continuous path to a structure. Cleaning out combustible material from the first five feet around the house has been shown multiple times to increase the likelihood of survivability of a structure. This initial five feet of space can be improved by reducing the amount of flammable material in direct contact with a structure. Past that it is important to remove lower limbs on trees and bushes that connect the ground to the canopy of the trees. Keeping lawns mowed and creating barriers with pathways and stone trails will all work towards creating more defensible space. The efforts of each property owner improves safety for the whole neighborhood, and our firefighters on the Rolling Pines Fire noticed. They were able to stay and protect houses all thanks to defensible space at individual houses.

In the photos below we have some good examples of defensible space from the homes in Pine Hills Estate. Fire stopped in both cases before reaching the structures and values that were spread around them.  
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