Home protection techniques slowly catch on
Some rural residents whose homes are surrounded by thick vegetation are catching on to the notion of a “defensible perimeter,” and some aren’t.That’s the word from local fire chiefs, as they continue ongoing efforts to educate people about how to protect their homes from wildfires.”Awareness is up a little bit each year,” said Ron Leach, fire chief for the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District.”Most people are a little more aware,” added Mike Morgan, fire chief for the Rifle Fire Protection District. “High-profile fires seem to have gotten people’s attention.”Those fires include last week’s Snaking Fire near Bailey, which forced the evacuation of 1,000 homes.The Carbondale Fire District’s efforts to teach people how to protect their homes started three or four years ago. The approach is called creating a “defensible perimeter,” which will slow or divert wildfires before they reach homes. Leach said defensible perimeter workshops at the district’s fire stations were not very well attended last year, but outreach sessions in subdivisions were well received.Those sessions included classes at Cactus Flats on Missouri Heights and Swiss Village up the Crystal River valley.”I applaud their efforts,” Leach said of those who attended.Vegetation in and around both subdivisions is mostly sage, pion, juniper and oak.Morgan pointed to Grass Mesa and Taughenbaugh Mesa, both south of Rifle, as subdivisions where wildfire dangers are high, but there are numerous others.”People need to be extremely cautious,” Morgan said.Residents can take several basic steps to lower the odds that a wildfire will consume their homes, fire officials have said. Those steps include:-Thin out vegetation within 30 feet of a house. “But you don’t have to clearcut it,” Leach said.-Stack firewood away from the home.-Keep space under decks clear of all flammable materials.-Clean gutters of dry material.-Trim tree branches close to the ground to prevent a grass fire from spreading into the tree.Although these warnings have been publicized in the past few years, many homeowners ignore them.Leach said there are several reasons why homeowners don’t take action. Some people like vegetation close to their home, or they don’t like being told what to do, “or they don’t think a wildfire will happen to them.”Wildfires can also threaten homeowners’ lives, and the lives of firefighters.Leach said many subdivisions have only one road leading in and out. If firefighters must enter a subdivision to protect homes, “it puts them in danger,” Leach said.Both fire chiefs indicated that if homeowners are interested in wildfire protection, they can call the fire station to arrange a class.
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