AUSTIN, Texas — Officials with Texas Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System gathered with state lawmakers Friday morning to unveil new web applications that will help homeowners and communities determine wildfire risk — and take measures to mitigate potential hazards.
Wildfires scorched almost 4 million acres across the state last year, destroying nearly 3,000 homes. Texas Forest Service officials say the new web applications will arm Texans with the tools they need to reduce threats from future blazes.
"Making a fundamental difference in the lives of students in the Texas A&M University System is something we try to do every day,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “But today we hope to make a difference in the lives of all Texans with this TxWRAP program from the Texas Forest Service."
Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal, or TxWRAP, allows users to identify wildfire threats for a particular area based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, weather conditions, terrain and potential fire behavior. It also routes users to resources that can help them implement wildfire prevention practices.
Accessible at texaswildfirerisk.com, the applications are free to use. Professional users such as civic planners, wildland fire managers and elected officials can use TxWRAP to generate a report packaging all the wildfire risk data for their community. Such a tool can be useful in defining mitigation options, allocating resources and prioritizing programs that will better protect communities.
Developed by Texas Forest Service GIS specialists, TxWRAP is the first web portal of its kind in the nation granting public access to risk assessment data that previously hasn’t been readily available, particularly in a user-friendly format.
Texas Forest Service Director Tom Boggus called the website a “holistic approach to Texans helping Texans mitigate their wildfire risk.”
“This can and should be a ‘game changer’ for Texans as they learn what their risks are and how to mitigate them,” Boggus said. “It is a tool that neighbor can pass on to neighbor, making Texas a safer place to live.”
Texas Senators Kirk Watson and Royce West have committed their support to the project.
“During a January interim hearing of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, my colleagues and I were excited to hear about the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal,” West said. “This website will enable homeowners, civic leaders, community planners, elected officials and others to identify the risk wildfire poses to their communities. Developed by Texas Forest Service, this tool empowers Texans to be able to better protect their homes and property.”
Watson added: “The devastating fires in Central Texas last fall revealed how we need strong collaboration between local, county and state officials. This new Wildfire Risk Assessment Tool furthers the potential for this critical collaboration in disaster management and risk assessment. It’s an important resource for Texans to plan, protect and act.”