Wildfire Week Sparks Homeowner Awareness of Fire Threats

By Steve Jackson

It's Wildfire Awareness Week in Washington State. Area agencies hope to raise awareness of how homeowners can reduce the threat of fire on their property.

At acreage in Riverside state park, a tool called the masticator is being used to thin small trees. The machine actually chops the trees into smaller pieces where they will be less available as fuel for a wildfire.
 
Guy Gifford of the Department of Natural Resources says because wildfire is a natural part of the environmental cycle in dry eastern Washington woods, careful management to reduce fire danger is important:
 
Gifford: “And so we have to replace natural process with a specific goal so people who use this area get what they want.”

Enter the Firewise program, which assists homeowners in figuring out how they can reduce fire danger on their timbered property.

Jim Armstrong is with the Spokane conservation district:
 
Armstrong: “It’s designed to let landowners look at their property, so they have more chance of their house surviving after a fire goes through”

Guy Gifford says it’s not just about cutting trees down.
 
“A lot of people think Firewise means they have to cut down all their trees, but no, Firewise is trying to reduce the fuel loading and is very adaptive to the landowners specific goals.”

Gifford says the program does not take a generic approach but can focus on the criteria of the landowner, including Aesthetics, wildlife, forest health and economics.  The program involves a free specific risk assessment of a landowner’s property.

In addition to making recommendations on how to reduce fire danger on a specific property, Jim Armstrong says there is cost sharing available to help land owners for actual work done.

Armstrong: “And if landowners want to get together and do this work as a firewise community, there is frequently 100 percent cost share”

For more information of the Firewise program, you can contact the Spokane County Conservation District.
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