Have fuel, will burn: Reduce risk at your home | PostIndependent.com

Have fuel, will burn: Reduce risk at your home

Carrie ClickPost Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – With wildfire season 2003 on its way, if you’ve got a yard, you should be thinking about creating what fire experts call a “defensible space” around your home. And whether it’s a 40-acre ranch in south Glenwood Springs, a home on the hillside in Canyon Creek, or a house in downtown Glenwood Springs, property owners in every kind of setting can reduce their risks of wildfire this coming spring, summer and fall.Are certain Glenwood neighborhoods more vulnerable to wildfires than others? Ron Biggers, fire protection analyst with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, said portions of Oak Meadows, pockets in West Glenwood and areas up Canyon Creek are a few of the local spots the fire department keeps a close eye on.”It depends on many factors, including fuel loading, construction type and location,” Biggers said. Fuel loading describes the ability brush and trees have to ignite and carry fire. Oak brush, common in this area, can ignite and move a fire quickly. And a house’s location can determine how vulnerable it is to wildfire. For example, building on a slope can increase the risk of fire since fire typically runs uphill. So can building on south-facing slopes, which catch more sunlight.”There’s more danger of wildfire at a house built on a south-facing slope because wood and other vegetation dries out more quickly and can become more prone to catching fire,” Biggers said. “Play like an ember”Whether your house is built in the woods, on a mountaintop or in town, one of the best ways homeowners can create defensible space is to “play like an ember,” Biggers said.Embers – “pretty intense little bits of fire,” Biggers said – are one of the ways fire moves from place to place. Biggers said to think about where you would go if you were an ember.”Where could you get caught?” he said. “Could you get stuck under a wood deck that’s got a lot of dead leaves and debris underneath it?” Decks, Biggers said, are prime spots for igniting fires. Biggers also said homeowners should check out all the nooks and crannies where an ember could get stuck and ignite. Being preparedBiggers said a subdivision in the town of Durango is a perfect example of a group of neighbors creating defensible space, and avoiding devastating fire loss.Last summer during the Missionary Ridge Fire, while other nearby neighborhoods were devastated by the wildfire, Los Ranchitos didn’t lose even one of its 33 homes. That’s because in 2001, residents asked Colorado State Forest Service forester Dan Ochocki to assess the health of their forest. When he came back with news that the subdivision’s trees and brush needed to be thinned out, the neighborhood formed a committee and hired Fire Ready, a company that specializes in systematically and scientifically clearing excess growth and trees.The fire licked the outskirts of the subdivision but skirted completely around it.Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.comCREATING Defensible space -Keep trees and shrubs pruned. -Remove leaf and pine needle clutter from roof gutters.-Mow the lawn regularly.-Store firewood away from the house.-Maintain 10- to 12-foot distance between tree crowns (the widest part of the tree). -Take out “ladder fuels” – vegetation that serves as a link between grass and treetops. -Give yourself added protection with fuel breaks – driveways, gravel walkways and lawns. Source: FireWise.org and Ron Biggers, Glenwood Springs Fire Department. Ron Biggers of the Glenwood Springs Fire Department will assess your property at no charge and give you advice on how best to safeguard your property against wildfire. “Defensible space doesn’t mean clear-cutting,” he said. Contact Biggers at 384-6433 for information and to schedule an appointment.

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