Are you ready? Wildfire season starts April 15

Taylor Bridge Fire
The Taylor Bridge Fire, which started August 13, 2012, destroyed 61 residences and burned 23,500 acres between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. Photo: DNR.

Regardless of what the thermometer or rain gauge say, wildfire season officially begins on April 15 in Washington State.

The risk of wildfires can change rapidly during the spring when spells of warmer, drier weather occur with increasing frequency. Wildfires can damage natural resources, destroy homes, and threaten the safety of the public and the firefighters who protect forests and communities.

In fact, there have already been more than 20 forest fires reported this year on lands protected by DNR. Last year, 764 fires burned approximately 126,219 acres on DNR-protected lands– about 70 percent of those were human-caused.

Now is a good time to consider fire-resistant landscaping techniques that can help keep your home safe, especially if you live close to the forest or other open lands. Fire-resistant landscaping can be both functional and beautiful. Try these tips to help keep your home safe from wildfire this year:

  • 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; and
  • 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.

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, visit www.firewise.org.

Learn more about wildfire rules that start this summer.

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