Today’s blog comes from Michelle Fidler, National Park Service Fire Communication and Education Specialist.
March 27 through April 2 is Southwest Wildfire Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “Where We Live, How We Live, Living with Wildfire.” The focus of the week is to increase awareness and to promote actions that reduce the risk from wildfire to homes and communities.
Preventing Wildfires is Everyone’s Responsibility
As you head outdoors this spring, be sure to keep these fire prevention tips in mind:
· Before going hiking or camping, check with public land management agencies for fire regulations, restrictions or area closures. Visit http://wildlandfire.az.gov or call the toll-free Southwest Fire Restrictions Hotline at 1-877-864-6985 for more information.
· Only make campfires in designated areas. Ensure it is fully extinguished before you leave the area. Douse fire with water and dirt, and stir with a shovel until completely cold to the touch. (Watch a video on dousing a campfire.)
· If using a portable stove, set it up in an area clear of grasses and other fine fuels. Prevent stoves from tipping and starting a fire.
· Cigarettes should never be thrown out the window of a vehicle. Place cigarette remains in in order to prevent wildfires.
· Practice Leave No Trace principles--pack out cigarette butts and burned materials from your camping area.
· Never park a vehicle over dead grass; the catalytic converter can ignite the vegetation.
· Always secure tow chains so they don't drag. One spark can cause a wildfire.
Are you Ember Aware?
Here in Arizona, wildfires can happen any time of year. It’s not if, but when the next wildfire will occur. During a wildfire, thousands of embers can rain down on your roof and pelt the side of your home like hail during a storm. Depending on fire intensity, wind speed and the size of materials burning, embers can be carried more than a mile ahead of the fire. If just one of these embers become lodged in something easy to ignite on or near your house, your home will be in jeopardy of burning.
The foothills, grasslands and mountains of Arizona are all fire-prone environments. If you live in these areas, your first defense against wildfire is to create and maintain survivable space around your home. Your roof and the vegetation around your house are key factors in determining whether or not your house will survive a wildfire.
Seven Things You Can Do to Help Protect Your Home from Wildfire
1. Use fire-resistant construction matrials to deter embers. Replace wood roofs with fire-resistant Class A roofing materials. Plug openings in roof with non-combustible materials. Windows should be multiple-pane, tempered-glass. Cover eaves and vents with 1/8-inch wire mesh. Fill gaps in siding with a good quality caulk. Wooden decks and fences should have a non-combustible section against the house.
2. Create survivable space around your house. Thin and prune tress within 125 feet of your home. Remove branches that overhang the roof. Ensure tress or clumps of trees are spaced 20 feet apart at the canopy to help prevent flames from traveling through the tree tops.
3. Use fire-resistant vegetation within 30 feet of structures. Replace wood mulches with non-combustible types and remove dead plant debris next to the house and any wooden fences. Move woodpiles away from the home.
4. Remove leaves and pine needles from your roof, gutters and deck. Plant debris could easily be ignited by flying embers.
5. Prune shrubs, cut gass and remove weeds regularly. Remove excess growth as well as dead leaves and branches to decrease their flammability and the threat they could pose during a wildland fire.
6. Remove “ladder fuel.” Pruce tree limbs so the lowest is 6 to10 feet from the ground. Fire burning through tall, dry grass could ignite lower limbs and climb to the top of the tree with relative ease.
7. Ensure garden hoses and gas-powered equipment are in good repair. Hoses develop leaks and deteriorate with age and exposure. During fire season, fuel your lawn mower away from dry, flammable grass.