Keep your home from being a tinderbox this fire season
With dry weather conditions and windy days continuing this spring, wildfire is a growing threat.To help keep wildfires from destroying a home, homeowners can take concrete steps to keep wildfires at bay.The best defense is to create a “defensible space” around a house and outbuildings by clearing away flammable material, including trees and shrubs.Defensible space protects the house and gives firefighters room to do their jobs.According to the Garfield County Office of Emergency Preparedness, roofing material and defensible space are the two most important factors that determine if a home can survive a wildfire.A publication from Colorado State University Extension outlining the steps to take to create a defensible space is available from the Office of Emergency Preparedness in the county courthouse in Glenwood Springs, or by calling 945-1377, ext. 2290.”With more and more development in the county, in the wildland-urban interface, there’s an increasing need to take appropriate mitigating measures, especially in high hazard areas such as oakbrush and sagebrush,” said Garfield County Director of Emergency Management Guy Meyer.Roofs should be constructed of fire-resistant material, not wood or shake shingles, if they are located near forests and grasslands.All flammable plants, including trees, shrubs and grasses, should be removed completely for 15 feet around a house, measured from the outside edge of the house eaves or decks.Defensible space should extend not only around the house, but also to garages, sheds, barns and storage buildings.Nothing should be planted within three to five feet of the home or outbuilding, especially if the house is sided with wood or logs.Vegetation should not be planted beneath windows or in front of foundation vents.Firewood should not be stacked next to the house.”We encourage people who use wood to put it at least 50 feet away from the house. If it were to ignite, then at least that source is away from the house,” Meyer said.Firewood is best stacked uphill or on the same elevation of the house.Decks are also potential fire hazards. Residents should not use the areas under decks for storage, and the ground under decks should be covered with a layer of gravel.Another less intensely cleared defensible space should extend 75 to 125 feet around the home. In this area, trees and shrubs should be 10 feet apart. What are called “ladder fuels,” small shrubs, trees, tree limbs and other material that allow fire to climb into a tree crown, should be kept cleared.Tree branches should be pruned to a height of 10 feet. And grass should be mowed to a height of six to eight inches.Meyer also recommends residents follow an annual spring checklist for maintaining the defensible space:-Keep trees and shrubs properly pruned and thinned.-Keep roofs and gutters clear of debris.-Remove branches overhanging the roof and chimney.-Make sure an outside water source is available that can reach all parts of the house.-Check fire extinguishers and make sure they are in working condition.-Keep the driveway clear of overhanging branches to allow easy access for emergency vehicles.-Know your escape routes in case of a fire.”These measures aren’t going to cost a lot of money and they will help people preserve their property,” Meyer said.
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