Recently it seems that not a day goes by without some wildfire being reported in the area, which leads me to believe that some basic fire prevention tips need to be reviewed. With drought conditions widespread, landowners should be thinking in terms of mitigation, fuel management and prescribed burning.

AgriLife Extension range management and beef cattle specialists tell us that land owners need to think about fuel management - shred it, graze it, burn it down - to keep from getting in a situation where fire can do significant damage.

As a tool in fuel management, removing that fuel is important. Whether it's a welding spark, thrown cigarette or hot box on a railroad, if the fuel is not there, the fire won't have a chance to grow and spread.

The Texas Forest Service has urged citizens across the state to be aware of heightened wildfire danger due to a low pressure fronts that drop humidity levels and produce high winds.

The Forest Service's Predictive Services Department forecasts that through the month of February, fuels, such as grasses and trees, are expected to remain critically dry. Some tools that land owners can use to mitigate and lower the risk are:

Make sure the roadside ditches are mowed adequately along their property line. Contact the highway department if necessary. Prescribed burning can be an option to manage brush and high grasses, where burn bans are not in effect. The Forest Service has an updated list of counties enacting burn bans at: http://tfsfrp.tamu.edu/wildfires/decban.png. Most of Texas now has a burn ban in effect, including Nueces County! Establish fuel breaks (fire lanes) along fences, roadways and between buildings and fields. When welding, be sure the work area is free of grass and debris, have a spotter and a water source handy.

Wildfires can strike home if you have not taken some steps to protect your house and property. The actions and precautions listed below are designed to help you prepare your home and lessen the threat of wildland fire damage to you and your property.

LPG tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep area around the tank clear of flammable vegetation. Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings. All combustibles such as firewood, wooden picnic tables, boats, stacked lumber, etc. should be kept away from structures. Clear roof surfaces and gutters regularly to avoid build-up of flammable materials such as leaves and other debris. Remove branches from trees to a height of 15 feet or more. In rural areas, clear a fuel break of at least 3 times the fuel length around all structures. Have fire tools handy such as: ladder long enough to reach your roof, shovel, rake, and a bucket or two for water. Place connected garden hoses at all sides of your home for emergency use. Assure that you and your family know all emergency exits from your home. Assure that you and your family know all emergency exits from your neighborhood.

More information about protecting against and preventing wildfires can be found at: http://texashelp.tamu.edu.

By the way, this is Food Checkout Week. In recognition of safe, abundant and affordable food grown by the American farmer and rancher the Texas Farm Bureau celebrates Food Check-Out Week, Feb. 15-21. Statistics indicate that even in this uncertain economy, Americans spend only 10 percent of their disposable income each year-less than the citizens of any nation-to feed their families. Today there are 2.13 million farms in the United States and, 98 percent of U.S. farms are operated by farm families. Those same farmers and ranchers receive only 19 cents of every dollar spent on food.

Even with the additional cost of processing and retailing, the average American can earn enough to pay for a year's supply of food in just 37 days, according to the Texas Farm Bureau.

Through good times and bad, farmers and ranchers have fulfilled the promise to provide a plentiful supply of safe, nutritious food to all Americans and others around the world, according to Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at 767-5217.