Protect your property from wildfires

February’s impressive snowfall helped ensure Northwest reservoirs can quench our crops’ thirst. But brimming mountain lakes don’t always equate with lessened fire danger in the arid mountain rain shadow counties. Property owners near the east slope of the Cascades are best served by anticipating that every wildfire season could be, well, wild.

PEMCO has partnered with local fire chiefs and conservation districts to help landowners cut the odds of their property igniting in blazes like those seen last year near Wenatchee, Goldendale, and Grants Pass.

Watch for the PEMCO WALLY van at a Kittitas County event demonstrating “Firewise” practices. You’ll be able to pick up free tips to give your home and land a fighting chance in case a wildfire roars your way. You also can check out pemco.com for updated wildfire information, soon to include “how to Firewise” videos and results of our latest surveys.

Why such a big push this year, when wildfire is an ongoing threat? Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently issued a Forest Health Hazard Warning in four counties: Chelan, Kittitas, Klickitat, and Yakima. Foresters have identified them as being at higher risk for wildfire owing to timber that’s grown too dense, making it more susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles, western spruce budworm (still going strong about halfway through the outbreak’s seven- to 10-year lifecycle), and other insects and diseases.

Forestland owners can consult with DNR foresters to help assess their risk, and – like most forestland owners in Eastern Washington – they may qualify for federal assistance to pay for up to half the cost of thinning and pruning trees and removing forest slash. (Contact the DNR office in your area or email foreststewardship@dnr.wa.gov for program specifics and your eligibility.)

Even if you don’t live in the woods, you can help safeguard your home with these easy, low-cost tips:

  1. Remove dead brush, and keep grass cut and watered within 30 feet of your home. Consider firebreaks as part of the landscape – gravel paths, ponds, driveways, and pumice or gravel mulch instead of combustible beauty bark.
  2. Prune trees so the lowest branches are at least 15 feet above the ground, and ensure no limbs come within 15 feet of your home.
  3. Stack firewood at least 30 feet away and uphill from any structure (uphill, since that’s the direction fire tends to burn). Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and barbecues.
  4. And when it’s time to reroof your home, consider a metal roof.