Cedar Hill Tx — Texas A&M Forest Service crews soon will begin removing potentially hazardous vegetation at selected sites in the community of Cedar Hill in an effort to reduce the wildfire risk facing the Dallas suburb.
Firefighters will use a Gyro-Track mulching machine, as well as chainsaws, a chipper and other hand tools to create shaded fuel breaks on sites at Northwood University, West Belt Line Road and Valley Ridge Park.
Breaks are used to help stop or slow down wildfires by removing the vegetation, which serves as fuel for the fire. A shaded fuel break often is constructed in a forested area, where trees are thinned and pruned but retain some canopy. Such a break can help keep surface fires from spreading into tree tops, which increases fire intensity.
The work is scheduled to begin Jan. 7 and will take place over the next three months.
“This project will enhance the access and egress for emergency responders,” said Nick Harrison, a wildland urban interface forester with Texas A&M Forest Service. “And if a fire did occur, the fuel break could help keep it out of the adjacent populated areas and reduce the impact on university property.”
The fuel mitigation project is one of the initiatives outlined in Cedar Hill’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which helps communities identify their risks and develop methods to combat them.
Working in conjunction with Texas A&M Forest Service, Cedar Hill began developing its strategic plan in 2008. The community was nestled in the midst of the wildland urban interface, an area where populated development begins to encroach on rural, undeveloped land.
Aware of the challenges posed by their location, then-Fire Chief Steve Pollock put an emphasis on developing a protection plan. Pollock now serves chief regional fire coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, but he has continued to work with the department and current Chief John Ballard, helping them continue to carry out the initiatives outlined in the plan.
Northwood University President Dr. Kevin Fegan said he was pleased to know the area would be safer thanks to the work being done.
"This project not only ensures we are taking steps to protect our campus, but also our community," Fegan said. "Part of our approach as an institution has been to be a good neighbor and a valued partner in our community. We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort."