If you live in a wildfire-prone area, preparation and forethought is key to your personal safety and preserving your home. You can follow these ten FireSafe steps to prepare your home and land.
(Courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources)
1. Recognize the hazard
Fire is a natural part of our environment. In Spokane County, the grasses and pine forests have been subjected to fires every 3 to 30 years. This is a normal part of our Eco-system. There are more than 300,000 people living in Spokane County and many live in or adjacent to forestland. Understand the steps you can take to create a FireSafe environment, making it safer to live, work and play.
2. Define your defensible space
Clearing flammable materials from around your home creates a defensible space. A minimum 30-foot buffer reduces the chance of wildfire from spreading to your home. On steeper ground, as much as 100 feet of clearance may be necessary. FireSafe Spokane and your local fire department provide courtesy inspections to help you determine your needs.
3. Reduce flammables
A key step to creating a defensible space is removing dry grass, brush, dead leaves and pine needles. Replace highly flammable plants with fire resistive, high moisture content varieties. Some good choices are Barberry, Rose of Sharon, Sedum and Spirea.
4. Prune or remove trees
Remove or thin overcrowded or weakened trees. Prune low-hanging branches to keep a ground fire from climbing into upper branches.
5. Relocate wood piles
Stack wood, construction debris, and other flammable materials at least 30 feet away from your home. Keep flammable vegetation 10 feet away from woodpiles.
6. Keep it clean
Clean pine needles, leaves and debris from your roof, gutters, decks and yard. Remember to clean up after storms. This is especially important during the dry summer months when a single spark can ignite a fire.
7. Be accessible
Make sure firefighters can find you. Easy to read signs and addresses will help with this. Your driveway needs to be wide enough for emergency vehicles to safely pass and turn around at your home. Driveways should be trimmed of vegetation to allow emergency equipment to reach you. Bridges should be constructed to support the weight of emergency vehicles.
8. Rate your roof
Your roof is the most vulnerable part of your house in a wildfire. If you have a wood shake roof consider treatment or replacement with a fire resistive material.
9. Recycle yard debris
Use alternative disposal methods like composting or recycling to get rid of yard and garden debris. Burning vegetation is restricted in parts of Spokane County. Always contact the Department of Natural Resources or Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority for current burning regulations.
10. Be prepared for wildfire
Your home must have smoke detectors and should have fire extinguishers. Keep garden tools like rakes, hoses and shovels easily accessible. Make sure everyone in your home knows where this equipment is, and how to call for help in the event of an emergency.
Read more about wildfires and communities, including research at Washington State University, in “When wildfire comes to town.”
Watch a video of how homes were saved from wildfire in the 2008 Valley View fire near Spokane.