By Jim Blott
During the mid-80s, people began migrating from the hustle and bustle of the city to the peaceful, undeveloped settings outside of towns in every region of Texas. This migration has led to a number of devastating fires that have destroyed lives, homes and their surrounding wildlands.
According to figures released by the Texas Forest Service, four lives were lost to wildfires in the state of Texas in 2005. More than $7.1 million in property damage occurred, and more than 422,939 acres of wildland was destroyed. All at a cost of $57.7 million.
To help prevent this scenario from repeating, the Texas Forest Service (TFS) has developed a new program to educate Texans on how to protect their homes and families from fire in wildland areas. These wildland communities, referred to as urban wildland interface, are geographical areas where combustible homes are mixed with combustible vegetation.
The "Urban Wildland Interface" traveling exhibit is part of this program. The mobile exhibit, manned by TFS personnel, is traveling across Texas visiting home and trade shows, county and state fairs, festivals, schools, fire safety exhibits, conventions, and any place the exhibit can reach masses and impart this very critical information.
"This one-of-a-kind exhibit is sure to catch the public's attention with its eye-opening graphics of flames licking the entire outer shell of the vehicles.
"We have created something that will heighten the public's awareness to a very serious matter. Through these efforts, we expect to educate upwards of 500,000 people a year."
The exhibit trailer opens to two sides each displaying a video monitor which airs a seven-minute DVD movie featuring character Tex Forester telling a tale of devastating fires and sharing step-by-step fire prevention tips that can help prevent the loss of life and home to fire. The exhibit includes two computers running a CD interactive gave. Players of all ages can use the information gained from the video and exhibit to test newly-honed firewise skills. If their knowledge is lacking, they will learn firsthand through the computer animation how quickly mistakes can lead to devastating fire.