Thursday, July 31, 2014

Safety first during wildfire season – resources are available to help homeowners

The forests are dry, the wind is blowing and the weather has brought lightning with only scattered rain showers. Fire Season is upon us. Except, few fires have actually ignited in west central Idaho; it’s a waiting game. Wildland firefighting personnel are ready.

Their skills have been fine-tuned supporting our neighbors to the west in Washington and Oregon who have thus far had a very busy fire season. It seems these days; somewhere in the country every year communities experience devastating loss. Unfortunately, home destruction from wildfire has happened again in 2014. But what about your home, your community? Are you ready if a wildfire threatens your neighborhood?

Families may not be together when disaster strikes. It’s important to discuss a plan in advance. Consider identifying a safe place to meet, how will you get there, how will you contact one another? The web site has planning tools to prepare a family, including children and seniors, pets and livestock for the unthinkable. Have these conversations before an emergency occurs.

If your home is in the wildland urban interface, you should be prepared for a threatening wildfire. The Firewise program (found at provides extensive information on all phases of being a homeowner in the wildland urban interface. Consider the Firewise Wildfire Approaching Checklist:

 Call for help

Use a cell phone if your electrical power has been interrupted.

 Close all entrances, windows and other openings.

This includes doors, garage doors, windows, vents and any other entrances to your residence or garage. Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. This action is recommended to prevent sparks from blowing inside your house and igniting there.
Dress to protect yourself

Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
Wet down the roof

If your roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place the ladder you use for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
Turn off residential fuel

If you use natural gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or the meter.
Prepare the automobiles

Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the garage door. In the event you evacuate, close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if the garage is full, park vehicles so they are heading in the direction of the evacuation route.

 Evacuate the family

If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe location.

The University of Idaho Extension office has provided an excellent resource document authored by Yvonne C. Barkley, Chris Schnepf and Jack Cohen titled Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland Urban Interface available at

Beginning with forest health and the role fire plays in healthy ecosystems, the authors explain that if you live in the wildland urban interface, you need to recognize that the home ignition zone (your home and its immediate surroundings) belongs to you. That means you have the responsibility to reduce your homes vulnerability to wildfire.

The report goes on to explain that homes that are not vulnerable to ignition will not burn in a wildfire. During the Wildland/urban fires, homes ignite in two principal ways; from flame heating and/or more commonly from fire brand ignition (burning ember spot ignitions). Regardless of how they start, all fires must meet the requirements for ignition and combustion – a sufficient amount of fuels, heat and oxygen.

Take the time to review the tools available to you. Have conversations with family, friends and neighbors about what the plan is should evacuations occur. Learn what you can do to make a difference in saving your property. Nobody can predict the future, but we can all prepare for it.

Public and firefighter safety is always the number 1 concern during a wildfire. If you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests at 208-983-1950. We will be glad to visit with you. Be safe out there.

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