Keep homes safe from wildfire

By Observer editorial June 17, 2013 10:33 am
So you’ve got a home in the woods. Beautiful, right? Not so fast, my friend.

The Black Forest Fire in Colorado, the most destructive in that state’s history, which by this morning had destroyed 485 homes, and taken two lives is a red flag with the evacuations of almost 40,000 people.

After a drier than normal spring, fire season is also getting an early start in Northeast Oregon, and homeowners, particularly this year, need to make sure there is defensible space of at least 100 feet around the home. Of course, that is not always possible due to property lines, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk. 

Creating defensible space around a home might mean trimming back ladder fuels where flames can jump from the surrounding forest to the home. It might mean cleaning pine needles from roofs and gutters twice a year. It might mean removing branches hanging over roofs — those ladder fuels — cutting any branches within 10 feet of chimneys and stacking firewood away from the house.

It might mean clearing excess fuels, everything from tall grass and shrubbery to trees. That’s probably easiest. And it’s the least expensive. All it takes is elbow grease and maybe a good chainsaw.

It might mean considering fire-resistant roofing material particularly when redoing your roof.

It might mean using grass, a flower garden or  fire-resistant ornamental shrubbery, or a combination of all three, to maintain a greenbelt, irrigated if possible, around your home. A rock garden may also be a wise step.

With Northeast Oregon’s semi-arid climate and surrounding forests, and new homes sprouting up all the time in the urban-forest interface, many homes are vulnerable to wildfire. We need to take practical steps now to reduce the risk.

In the meantime, we can all be careful with fire. It just takes a spark to start a fire of thousands of acres.