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MAY IS WILDFIRE AWARENESS MONTH

May 3, 2021

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is May 1, 2021.  On this Prep Day, you have the power to protect the part of the community that means the most to you and your family by eliminating vulnerabilities in your own yards!

According to FEMA and the US Fire Association, “more than 46 million residences in 70,000 communities in the United States are at risk for WUI fires. And, the WUI area continues to grow by approximately 2 million acres per year.” In our area, we may have brush fires, grass fires, forest fires or even outdoor fires. These fires can have the same impact as a large wildfire when they occur close to our homes, neighborhoods and communities.

What is WUI?  WUI, or Wildland Urban Interface, is the area or zone where our natural environment meets up to our developed areas. As you look around our area here in the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s district, we have several WUI areas. In fact, the Washington State Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan (WA SEHMP) has rated our state at a high-risk index, with Spokane County receiving a medium-high rating. They also rated the top 25 places in Washington most likely to be exposed to wildland fire; and the Spokane area ranks within the top five places, receiving the rank of fourth most likely area to be exposed to wildland fires!

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Research into wildfires has identified that embers and small flames are the main way that the most homes ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne vegetation or construction material/wood that can be carried great distances, even more than a mile, through the wind which can cause spot fires and ignite homes. Burning embers can land on or near your house or under your deck. They can ignite vegetation or other combustible materials/debris that could then threaten your house.

WA Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR) indicates that “as many as 80 percent of homes lost to wildland fire may have been saved if brush around the homes were cleared and defensible space created around structures.” During this Prep Day, and throughout the year, you have the opportunity to take steps to clear areas around your home and create a defensible space.  Pick one step to act on this week and get one step closer to building the defensible space around your home!

Immediate Zone – Zone 1 (0’ – 5’ around your house)

When looking to take steps to make your house more fire safe, science tells us that this is the most important zone to start with. This zone is the most vulnerable to embers. According to the National Fire Protection Association and their Firewise USA® program, here are some steps to take:

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Intermediate Zone – Zone 2 (5’ – 30’ around your house)

This is the zone where your landscaping choices make a difference. Depending on how you choose to landscape, you can create fire breaks that can help influence and decrease a fire’s behavior. Get more tips by visiting the National Fire Protection Association and their Firewise USA® program.

  • Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.
  • Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.
  • Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns.  Prune trees up to six to ten feet from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
  • Space trees to have a minimum of eighteen feet between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.
  • Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than ten feet to the edge of the structure.
  • Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.

Extended Zone – Zone 3 (30’ – 100’ around your house) 

This last zone which is furthest from your house is where you focus your landscaping efforts on interrupting a fire’s path, and potentially redirecting it away from your house. The National Fire Protection Association and their Firewise USA® program lists the following tips that can help keep fire flames small and on the ground:

  • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
  • Remove dead plant and tree material.
  • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
  • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
  • Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.
  • Trees 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.

 

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Ensure your home and neighborhood have legible and clearly marked street names and numbers.

Debris Disposal

Remember that burning of your yard and/or construction debris is prohibited within the Fire District! This includes leaves, needles, small tree and shrub prunings, and other natural yard and garden waste. Visit the Spokane Clean Air Agency’s website to learn about ways you can dispose of your yard debris. Some disposal options include:

  • Grasscycling
  • Mulching
  • Chipping
  • Composting
  • Curbside Pick-up
  • Hauling

Backyard fires that get out-of-control set off most of the wildfires caused by people. You can be held responsible for the cost of putting out your out-of-control fire and any property damage it caused, which can be very costly.

If you have questions about how to create a defensible space around your home, contact us at (509) 928-1700.

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Did you Know?

 

  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Media Contact

  • Julie Happy
  • 509-892-4155

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Burch is co-owner and Business Manager of Neurotherapy Northwest. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”

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