Creating Defensible Space in the Spirit of Fire Prevention Week
The Douglas Forest Protective Association and the Umpqua National Forest are teaming up during Fire Prevention Week to encourage homeowners and communities to create defensible space. The first National Fire Prevention Day took place on October 9, 1911 and was in remembrance of the Great Chicago Fire that occurred from October 8 - 10, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire burned over 2,000 acres and destroyed 17,400 structures, leaving 100,000 people homeless and killing around 300 people. While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze to erupt during this fiery three-day stretch, it wasn't the biggest. That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, which started on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire and roared through Northeast Wisconsin, destroying 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it was done.
While fire season may be over locally, fire officials say that now is the perfect time to prepare for the next wildfire by creating or maintaining defensible space around your home and property.
According to Riva Duncan, Fire Staff Officer with the Umpqua National Forest, besides the fire itself, the biggest risk to homes are the wildfire’s hot embers. “Embers can fly through the air a mile or more ahead of the actual flame front,” said Duncan. “Once these embers land, they can ignite leaves, needles and debris that have accumulated on or around homes, within a matter of minutes.”
Pat Skrip, District Manager for DFPA, said, “Homeowners who reduce the fire danger around their home and property increases the odds that their home will survive if a wildfire occurs. The most effective way to do this is by creating defensible space.”
Skrip explains that defensible space is the area around a home or other structure where fuels and vegetation have been treated, cleared, or reduced to slow the spread of a wildfire. By having adequate defensible space, the risk of a wildfire spreading from the surrounding vegetation to a nearby home or building is greatly reduced.
Homeowners can create defensible space by pruning nearby trees, removing underbrush, mowing tall grass, and by removing all dead or dying vegetation within 200 feet of a structure. In addition, pine needles and leaves which have accumulated in gutters, on the roof, and other places around the home should also be removed. Firewood should not be stacked against any inhabited structure.
To help homeowners and communities prepare for the next blaze, fire officials have implemented the Firewise USA program throughout the area. The Firewise USA program is a community based program that addresses specific wildfire risks in local communities and helps empower homeowners to become prepared before the next wildfire occurs. To obtain Firewise USA recognition, communities work with local fire officials to create a wildfire risk assessment that is specific to their community, develop an action plan that focuses on wildfire prevention, mitigation, or education activities that the local community will strive to complete either annually or over a period of multiple years, and document time and investments made by the community into the program. Currently, there are 174 recognized Firewise USA Communities within Oregon, 27 of which are within Douglas County.
For more information about defensible space or the Firewise USA Program, contact your local fire department, wildland fire agency, or visit www.firewise.org