Fire season is just around the corner and this is how to prepare for it
With fire season only 130 days away from the average start date, DFPA strongly suggests that people start getting ready. They also warn that this past year, Oregon received less rain than the year before with seven inches below normal. Douglas County has remained in the moderate or severe drought category for the last couple of months although that may change.
Fire hazards increase with droughts and can lead to more fires this summer. Instead of waiting for fire season to start spring cleaning, people should consider starting property clean up now for future fire safety.
The Oregon State Extension Office recommends creating defensible space around a house “which allows firefighters to safely defend a home and other structures from wildfires.” People should maintain defensible space all year long.
There are three zones around a home called Home Ignition Zones (HIZ): the immediate zone (zero to five feet), intermediate (five to thirty feet), and extended zone (30 to 100 feet). Each zone requires a different level of preparation and maintenance, according to the National Fire Protection Association who provide multiple helpful instructions on their Public Education webpage.
Fire resistant plants for landscaping and reducing the number of plants next to the house help with creating a defensible space in the immediate zone.
Kyle Reed, DFPA fire prevention and public information officer, also says, “Keep up on grass, so it doesn’t get tall and dry out and you end up waiting until it is 90 degrees outside to cut it.” Cutting dry grass in summer can be a serious fire danger.
Graphic by Peyton Manning / The Mainstream
Embers (small burning pieces of vegetation) and small flames are the main cause for homes igniting in wildfires. Managing vegetation around the property will reduce flammable material such as branches from trees that are close to the home, DFPA recommends.
“People have this in their mind that there’s giant flames that will wipe out their homes, but, in reality, it’s often embers that catch things on fire outside the home,” Reed says. Embers will accumulate, catching patio furniture and other flammable items on fire. It is easy for embers to ignite dry vegetation and that can cause a fire large enough to take down a house, Reed says.
One of the most defensible things people can do for their home is picking up flammable debris in the yard, cleaning out gutters and underneath porches so a loose ember does not potentially strike a flame. Moving flammable material away from a house can save it, Reed says.
Reed also suggests cleaning roofs as well as preparing for a future wildfire by creating an emergency action plan that includes pets and livestock. Home owners should conduct yearly insurance policy checkups to update new renovations and do a home inventory to help settle claims faster, making a list of higher priced items and an inventory. “Take pictures and videos of the home to have just in case and save it somewhere for it to be easily accessed,” Reed says.
Reed also strongly encourages people to follow and join fire wise communities. Homeowners should be involved at a community level versus home level.
“It’s important for communities to work together to address wildfire risk,” Reed says. Creating a fire wise community involves an action plan with items to get done around the community, and people log their hours. “Right now, there are 26 active communities that have been recognized for being involved in the fire wise community program.”
Reed also warns people against illegal debris burns and gives advice on proper fire extinction.
“People need to realize that it needs to be completely put out,” Reeds says. “Large debris piles that are made with machinery tend to have tons of dirt mixed in with the materials and it will act like insulation causing it to smolder for months. Use a shovel and water to stir up the ashes to allow the fire to die out completely.”
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