Editorial: Taking steps against fire in our own backyards

September 10, 2011

Fire safety versus mosquito prevention?

What seems like a summertime quandary ought not be one.

Fire danger is high, and residents are reminded to do their part to prevent fire, at home or elsewhere.

The mosquito conundrum emerged among two sets of precautions issued in the past week.

Fire prevention experts suggest a variety of precautions, including 100-foot buffer zones around structures, smoke detectors and outdoor water storage such as pond, pool or well.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority has issued precautions following the discovery in Malheur County of the state's first case of the West Nile virus, which is mosquito-borne. The precautions include avoiding evening outdoor activity, securing screens and doing away with standing water - breeding ground for mosquitoes.

We do not discount the need for vigilance regarding West Nile, but Malheur County is a long ways off, and the OHA avers that the risk of catching the virus is low.

Also, the fires feel a bit closer.

So it's probably wise to side with the idea of keeping the kids' pool and other vessels filled with water. (But you could check your bird baths, clogged gutters and old tires, which don't do much good for fighting fires yet are prime spots for the bugs.)

Fire prevention experts have told us for years that, no matter what the conditions are, it's a good idea to create at least a 30-foot "safety zone" around your home, keeping it as free of vegetation as possible. If you know your home is in an active fire zone, a 100-foot buffer zone with reduced vegetation is recommended.

The need for fire precautions, if not our awareness of it, is as high as it has ever been. Temperatures remain high and the Dollar Lake Fire stubbornly holds forth in our collective backyard.

Whether we are in town or in the country, we are all part of the solution to prevent fire or do what we can to reduce its damage. Any property with vegetation on it, or adjacent to it, needs to be examined for ways in which fire risk can be minimized.

In another way, we are all affected: we all breathe the air. If you develop symptoms suggesting lung or heart problems, consult a health care provider as soon as possible.

County Health and Department of Environmental Quality also recommend:

Avoid strenuous outdoor activity

Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations

Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in your heating/cooling system

Finally, while trail and backwoods access is limited near Mount Hood, if you are planning an outing, remember that that the Oregon Department of Forestry has raised the Industrial Fire Precaution Level to 3. As a result, all trails on Hood River County property are closed to motorized use. Unlicensed motorized vehicles are allowed to use improved (graveled) forest roads only.

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