How to reduce fire risk at your home - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

How to reduce fire risk at your home

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio|email|twitter

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A grass fire off Tank Road in Hinds County Wednesday crept dangerously close to several homes. Firefighters doused the flames before any damage was done. But what would happen if fire crept close to your home?

Forest fire expert Leslie Blackwell is the "Firewise" Program Coordinator with the Mississippi Forestry Commission. He audited a house and a neighborhood in Brandon.

"I could probably burn down half the houses in this neighborhood in one afternoon," Blackwell says.

He rates the house he audited as having a moderate risk of sustaining serious damage from a brush fire.

One problem: the grass and flowerbeds are dry. The pine straw is brittle. "Right now as dry as it is, it's not mulch anymore. It's combustible fuel, a time bomb just laying there, waiting for a spark," Blackwell says. He suggests homeowners turn on their sprinklers as much as possible, to keep grass and flowerbeds moist.

Another problem: there's an empty lot next door to the home that's dry as a bone, and the woods around the back of the house are overgrown.

"Right here in the yard, within 200 feet of the house, (the homeowners need to) put some sweat equity into it. Reduce the fuel, cut down some of those small bushes, trees," Blackwell says.

Problem number three: the wooden fence around the home is great for privacy, but not for fire safety. The portion of the fence closest to the house should be made of stone, brick, or some other material that's not highly flammable. "Within about ten feet of your house, switch over to a non-combustible fencing material," Blackwell says.

The homeowner scored points for having mums, which are high moisture flowers, and for having a sturdy shingle roof with minimal gutters. Gutters collect debris that can catch fire.

Blackwell suggests we all take simple steps to avoid fire tragedy at home. "If you reduce the fuel of the house, you reduce fire behavior," he says.

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