Planning, preparation lowers wildfire risk
May 18, 2015
Written by Russell Stevens, email@example.com and Robert Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, May 2, 2015, was National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. This day is dedicated to raise wildfire awareness and help protect homes, neighborhoods and communities, while increasing safety for wildland firefighters.
City suburbs continue to spread into rural areas where, as a result of years of fire suppression, wildfires are a real risk. For more seclusion and to be closer to nature, homes in these suburban properties are often tucked into trees and other vegetation that serve as fuel for wildfires. Many suburban areas in the Southern Great Plains are inundated with Eastern red-cedar, a highly flammable tree. Too often, residents overlook the risk of wildfire in their communities, but by working together they can make their neighborhoods much safer from wildfire.
Nine out of every 10 wildfires are caused by man. Wildfires are started in many ways: outdoor welding, tossing out cigarette butts, losing management of “controlled” burns of brush piles or other debris, etc. These activities usually are conducted with little to no prior planning. Whether camping or working around the farm or house, be sure you have a plan in place to prevent a wildfire. This includes understanding weather conditions that cause wildfires and monitoring weather forecasts to avoid starting fires under those conditions.
One way to drastically reduce the frequency and severity of wildfire where suburbs meet rural areas is to support and conduct prescribed fires. Prescribed burning, unlike controlled burning, involves a “prescription” contained in a burn plan that is developed well in advance – sometimes a year or more – before actually conducting the burn. This prescription takes into account appropriate and safe weather variables, firebreak preparation, equipment and labor, smoke management, follow-up monitoring, and more, to safely conduct the burn. Prescribed burns reduce the accumulation of vegetation that fuel wildfires. Fewer wildfires mean fewer injuries and property losses, and less expense to fire departments and communities. More information about prescribed burns can be found at www.noble.org/fire/.
Proper planning and management in suburban areas is also important to reduce the spread and intensity of wildfire. Suburban residents can do their part to make their neighborhood safer from wildfire. Here are some tips from the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org):
In and around your home
- Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
- Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch and within 10 feet of the house.
- Screen or box in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
- Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
- Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
- Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
- Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
- Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
- Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
- Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
- Manage for low growing, less flammable, well-irrigated plants 30 to 100 feet from the home.
Learn more about how to protect your home and property at www.firewise.org. <