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Proper planning can avoid losses during Wildfire season

Article Published 05/30/2014

Rapid growth of brush and grass in the spring creates a fire hazard in the summer as the sun dries out the new growth. Grass fires are especially dangerous for those who live in brushy or wooded areas.
Residents are urged to plan and prepare now to avoid loss of life or property to natural cover fires.
A residential protection plan for grass and brush fires has three phases. The first phase is to Get Ready! This means that you should have at least two alternate escape routes preplanned. You should also prepare your property by systematically removing some of the brush and grasses (fuel for the fire) to develop a fire break around your home. 
It is important that the fire department can find your home in a wildfire or any emergency. This means that you should have clearly visible address numbers placed where firefighters can easily see them from the street in front of your house. These should be made from non combustible materials. 
The second phase is to Get Set! This means that once you have properly completed everything in the first phase, then you can prepare to leave if needed in an evacuation.
It also means that once you are ready to leave, as small fires start on your property from flying embers, that you can extinguish them before they grow into big fires. 
The most important part of this phase is to get ready to leave. So that when you get the word to evacuate or once you decide to get out, you can leave immediately. 
The Third phase is to Go! Once an evacuation has been announced leave immediately. Follow the most appropriate preplanned escape route and get out. It is important to follow designated escape routes to allow incoming fire fighters access to get in.
ESCAPE ROUTES
When preplanning your escape routes keep in mind that escape routes are only valuable if they take you away from danger. This means at least two alternate routes, ideally downhill, away from the fire. 
Natural cover fire spreads most rapidly uphill, preheating the fuel ahead of it. Escape routes should be at least 20 feet wide and clear of flash fuels such as dry grasses, pine trees and scrub oak for at least 10 feet on each side. Low ground cover or bark dust is ideal for minimizing fire exposure hazard along driveways and other access roads.
PROPERTY PROTECTION
On level ground, fire must have relatively continuous fuel to spread. Breaks in the fuel can slow or even stop fire spread. People in brushy areas should consider the use of lawns, gravel, and bark dust to provide open space, especially on downhill exposures. 
Fifty to 75-foot openings between heavy brush and valuable property provide the most ideal protection.
One good idea is to minimize shrubs and lower branches under trees. Once natural cover fires climb into trees, the fire can grow explosively and burn over long distances. By eliminating shrubs and lower branches, you can limit the ladder the fire can easily climb to leaves and needles.
Obviously, green shrubs and grass are less hazardous fuel than dry materials. Frequent watering can keep decorative shrubbery less flammable. Some types of plants are more fire-resistant than others. Most nurseries can assist with selection of more fire-resistant shrubs. 
A major cause of fire spread is the wood-shake or shingle roof. Such roofs ignite and burn rapidly, throwing sparks and burning brands into the wind. Residents with such roofs should be aware of the increased hazard.
PREPARING TO LEAVE
When you do evacuate you need to remember what to take with you. We call these the ”Taking the P’s with you”, The P’s consist of People, Pets, Photo’s, Phone, Prescriptions and other medications, and Papers.”
Be sure that you take all of the people in your home.
Take all of your photos and important papers.
Be sure you take all of your prescriptions and other medications. 
SUPPRESSION
Small fires can easily be extinguished if long garden hoses capable of reaching all parts of the property are connected to water spigots and ready to use. The garden hose nozzle is a good way to increase water stream reach. 
-For a hazard assessment of your property and/or more information on how to protect your home and property this fire season, contact Fire Marshal Dean Hunt at 801-336-3940.