FEMA Mitigation Best Practices: Nontraditional Wildfire Mitigation in Bastrop County, Texas   [open pdf - 818KB]

"On Sunday, September 4, 2011, a firestorm engulfed Bastrop County, Texas, destroying 1,688 homes, burning more than 34,000 acres, and claiming two lives. The Bastrop County Complex Fire was the most devastating wildfire in Texas' history and steps are being taken to protect residents and prevent history from repeating itself. Mike Fisher, Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, says fuel reduction is one action the county is taking to minimize the threat. As dead, fallen vegetative, and tree material accumulates on the ground, it creates a continuous source of understory fuel. When ignited, the resulting fire burns hotter, spreads faster, lasts longer, and covers more ground. When fuel is reduced, fires are less intense. […] The county received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to fund the hazardous fuels mitigation project. 'We targeted nearly 4,000 acres, which we are developing into a north project and a south project,' says Fisher. 'For each project, we conducted an in-depth study of the wildland urban interface to identify the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.' He says the developed areas feature a mix of houses located on small, medium, and large lot sizes. […] The HMGP grant has a two-year performance period so Fisher says the county is focusing on what it can do in that timespan. With the funds, the county has designed a mechanical thinning process using skid steers, which are low-impact machines with a mulching head on the front with teeth. Operators grind up the understory and remove undesirable species growing under the tree canopy. In a wildfire outbreak, the fire stays on the ground and does not go into the trees."

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