Our Northwest

New advice: Don’t wait, Firewise this fall

Wednesday, September 23, 2015by  Jon Osterberg

In a normal year, fire officials would advise rural homeowners to wait until spring to Firewise their property.
     But this summer has seen such extreme wildfire devastation across the Northwest that PEMCO recommends you don’t wait.
     If your property needs brush cleared, trees de-limbed, and a buffer of defensible space cleared around your home, do it this fall before snow starts piling up. You'll get a head start on preventing fire next year.
     The Kittitas County Conservation Council agrees: Firewising in October-November, after the current fire threat diminishes, is “a great idea.”
     You probably know by now that Firewise practices include:

  • Clear a 30-foot buffer around your home void of brush, bushes, weeds, tall grasses, and beauty bark.
  • Keep that zone well-watered during spring and summer.
  • Remove any branches that hang over structures.
  • Within 200 feet of your home, remove all mature-tree branches within 15 feet of the ground.
  • If you stack firewood, keep it at least 30 feet from your home, and (if possible) uphill.

     Other Firewise principles advise that you create non-flammable landscaping, ensure fire trucks can easily use your driveway, and make your address is clearly visible from the road.
     As of today, the government’s Incident Information System reports that the largest Washington wildfires range from 80% - 97% containment. That includes the Wolverine Fire west of Lake Chelan, which flared up so intensely during the Aug. 2 Seafair hydroplane races that we clearly saw the smoke plume from the shores of Lake Washington, 84 miles away.
     I have lots of Firewising to do at my own property near Cle Elum. October will be the perfect time with its cooler days, and no biting bugs or yellowjackets. Starting now means less work – and less fire risk – for me next year.

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Comments on this post

personJon Osterberg10/01/2015 05:40 PM
David, I have two answers for you, the first one being from the insurance perspective. I would say there's a difference between letting nature take its course on public lands versus protecting your health and belongings on your own private property. PEMCO's priority is to save lives and protect property.
   Our friends at Kittitas County Conservation Council answered your question this way:
   “By building a home in an area where wildfires are a natural occurrence, the environment is already affected. Our firefighting agencies have been so successful in putting out fires in the wildland urban interface (WUI) that these overstocked regions are no longer ‘natural.’ The brush and smaller trees that would have succumbed to a naturally occurring wildfire are now providing excess fuels and causing devastating fires. These fires wouldn’t have been as intense if we hadn’t had homes in the area. So as good stewards of the land, we urge landowners to thin, prune and remove brush – basically in the same way a low intensity ‘natural’ fire would. This not only provides defensible space for the landowner, it also makes the forest healthier, because most of these overstocked forests have too much competition for nutrients and water, and are not only suppressed, but are more susceptible to insects and disease.
   “We are a little more stringent in the 30 feet around the home, but we don’t ask people to cut trees in large numbers, just space them out if possible to keep canopies from touching, as well as limbing up the branches so a ground fire doesn’t become a catastrophic canopy fire. This is part of protecting your home as well as making it much safer for the firefighters who may be called on to protect it.”  – Suzanne Wade
personDavid ogweno orwa10/01/2015 04:21 AM
don't this theory effect environment?when trees are cut in large number ,are we therefore conservative?
personDave Burt09/28/2015 01:49 PM
I think we do most of this now, but it's a good reminder from our insurance company!  Peggy

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