Home saved from Chelan Butte wildfire because of defensible space

defensiblespace chelan
This small house with a family with five kids was saved by defensible space at the Chelan Butte Fire. Photo by: DNR/Sarah Foster

On Monday July 9th lightning struck a tall butte overlooking Lake Chelan. The 1:00 a.m. strike started a chaotic fire in the early morning hours. Luckily, a small home with a family of five kids knew how to defend their home from wildfire before it hit. Their defensible space was put to the test on July 9 when the Chelan Butte wildfire came through their property.

The homeowner is a former U.S. Forest Service employee who knows what it means to live in fire country. The property had green grass all the way around and nothing was growing against the house. See the photos on DNR’s Flickr site.

Also, DNR’s Ear to the Ground blog from last May shows another homeowner who was saved from wildfire.

Remember, preventing wildfire damage is really a matter of the right plant in the right place. Here are some tips to follow: 

  • Use plants with high moisture content (deciduous) nearest the home
  • Trim tree branches away from the home
  • Keep vegetation, including the lawn, around the home low and green
  • Limb trees at least six feet above the ground to reduce the chances that a fire on the ground will spread into tree tops – this is especially important if your property has lots of trees
  • Keep decorative ground covers such as beauty bark away from direct contact with your home – bark and wood chip ground covers can smolder
  • Trim back trees and shrubbery around structures so that fire crews and their vehicles will have safe access in an emergency

Defensible space  
Trees, shrubs, grasses and other vegetation provide fuel for fires. Reducing or even eliminating vegetation close to structures is a way to create defensible space against a wildfire.

If you’re designing or updating your home’s landscaping, think of ways to incorporate firebreaks (things that don’t burn) into your landscape design. A defensible space doesn’t have to be an eyesore. Some examples of firebreaks are: concrete, brick or gravel walkways, concrete flower box borders or planters, and water features, such as a pond. Even the backyard swimming pool can serve as a firebreak. 

Get Firewise
In Washington, numerous communities have received national recognition for their fire prevention efforts through the Firewise Communities USA Program. Many other neighborhoods have completed a wildfire protection plan that can help save lives and property.

In Washington, 85 percent of our wildfires are human-caused. We can all do our part to help prevent the spread of these wildfires. For additional tips on how to reduce the risk of wildfire to your community, home and family, log on to http://www.firewise.org/.

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