Get an early start on wildfire preparedness

  • Saturday, March 14, 2015 3:41pm
  • Opinion

Due to the far lower than average snowfall, Alaska Fire Services is preparing for an earlier than usual start to the wildland fire season by bringing some crews on a couple of weeks early.

With last year’s Funny River Horse Trail fire still fresh in our minds, Kenai Peninsula homeowners should follow Alaska Fire Services’ lead and make sure their property includes defensible space, in the event that another wildfire is sparked in the dry conditions. Some chores might have to wait until the weather warms up, but with so little snow on the ground, there’s a lot that can be done now, so those warmer days can be spent enjoying other activities — or starting on different chores.

Here are a few quick FireWise ideas to help protect your home from the eventuality of an encroaching fire:

■ Clear all dead or dry vegetation from the sides of homes and replace with small plants, flowers or gravel;

■ Within 15 to 30 feet of a home, remove shrubs beneath trees, prune tree limbs and remove dead vegetation;

■ Keep a well-watered lawn trimmed to three inches or less, trees should be healthy and watered often, dispose of flammable materials on property, clear the area under stairs and decks of debris, clean roofs and gutters;

■ Keep garden hoses and fire tools like shovels or rakes readily available. Keep storage areas clean and clear of oily rags, newspapers, or other combustibles;

■ Have a fire plan — locate the nearest fire station, test smoke detectors and keep fire extinguisher current. Most importantly clean chimneys and stovepipes regularly;

■ Make sure you have an easily accessible water supply on hand for emergency situations.

You can find more FireWise program information at forestry.alaska.gov/wildland.htm.

Most wildland fires on the Peninsula are human-caused — which also means most wildland fires are preventable. Many property owners have yard debris to burn after recent windy days; remember that burn permits are required beginning April 1. Permit information and details on fire conditions may be obtained by calling 907-260-4269 or online at forestry.alaska.gov.

All fires, whether open burns or small campfires, should never be left unattended. The area around the fire should be clear, and a water supply adequate to extinguish the fire should be on hand.

As Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” Let’s all do our part. When wildland firefighters are getting an early start, the rest of us should be prepared, too.

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