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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Helping Homeowners Prepare for Fire


Elk City, ID -- Recent rainfall gave firefighters a much needed reprieve to allow work to create defensible space for properties in the Elk City township.  A structure assessment group is working in Elk City to identify hazardous fuels and ways homeowners can reduce the risk of wildfires damaging or destroying homes and other buildings on their properties.
 
Brenda Dale, a structure protection specialist trainee on the Southern Area Incident Management Team managing fires in the Selway Complex, is heading up this effort in Elk City.  She directs a staff of approximately sixty people including two 20-person hand crews and four engine crews.  According to Dale, the first step is to perform an assessment of the property, identifying hazards around home and defensible space.  "This includes factors such as fuel loading, slope of the land, clearances of mature trees, location of utility lines, propane tanks, wood piles, entrance and exit to the property and defensible space around the driveway," Dale explained.
 
"Once the assessment is complete, we approach the homeowner with suggestions how to reduce the risk to their property," she added. " This may include removing trees around the home and driveway, moving wood piles from porches or next to buildings, and removing ladder fuels.  Ladder fuels are fuels of different heights which could transfer a ground fire to the tree crowns.  It is harder to control a fire and defend a home when ladder fuels are present."
 
"Ingress and egress may also pose problems," Dale said.  "When there is only one way to enter and exit a property, egress may be cut off if there are dense fuels around a driveway."
 
She said the homeowners in Elk City have been very receptive to their suggestions and welcome their help.  Dale directs her crews to reduce ladder fuels and other hazards close to homes by cutting and removing trees with hand tools, chainsaws and other mechanized equipment, like masticators, if available. When there is active fire nearby that may approach a community, they can also set up hose lays, pumps and sprinklers around homes. 
 
"We do what we can with the resources we have, while we are here and available," Dale added. "If our crews are needed elsewhere we can be reassigned to help on the firelines away from structure protection activities, so we may not always be able to complete needed fuel reductions."
 
The best advice Dale gives for homeowners is to get ready before a fire is bearing down on their property.  "This rain has given us a reprieve so people can get defensible space around their homes.  However, this is an ongoing project that should be started well before a fire is threatening properties.  In the end, preparation ahead of time may well be the reason your home is still standing after a fire passes."

For more information on keeping your home safe from wildfire, visit http://www.firewise.org/.
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