Stewardship in forestry: Time to create defensible space

May is Oregon Wildfire Awareness Month and each week will be dedicated to a different topic. This week is focused on creating defensible space around your home.

“Creating defensible space around your home is the single most important thing you can do to help save your home from wildfire,” says Interim Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “The more you can do to make your home defensible, the easier it is for firefighters to protect it.”

When it comes to preventing wildfires, there’s a lot at stake: lives, personal property, and the many values provided by Oregon’s forests.

“Simple prevention strategies will make the strongest impact in keeping your home, family and community safe,” said Kristin Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association.

Wildfires that occur in the wildland-urban interface often are started by human activity and then spread to the forest. Once underway a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses. Creating defensible space around a house is a proven way to make it less vulnerable to wildfire.

Babbs pointed rural residents to the national Firewise Communities Program for tips. “Defensible space” simply means to maintain the landscape around a home to reduce fire danger, and provide safe access to firefighters so they can protect it. In creating defensible space, Firewise advises to start with the house and work your way out.

Check the roof and rain gutters

Regularly clearing leaves or needles off the roof and out of the rain gutters is crucial to maintain fire resistance.

Remove fuel sources close to the house

The perimeter of the home and attachments out to about 5 feet are vulnerable if organic mulch, juniper bushes or other flammable plants are located in that area.

Maintain landscaping in the middle zone

Plants in the zone about 30-100 feet from the house should be low-growing and well irrigated. Spacing and pruning trees inhibits a wildfire from climbing into the crowns and carrying flames from tree to tree, and eventually to the house. A fuel break can stop the advance of a fire by starving it of flammable vegetation.

Firefighter access

When they respond to a call, firefighters must consider their personal safety. Will the driveway into your home allow them to engage the fire safely? If not, prune trees along the driveway and trim back shrubs so that a fire engine can enter and exit without running a gauntlet of flame.

More tips on how to create defensible space around your home can be found at firewise.org. You can also contact your local ODF office at 541-296-4626.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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