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PREPARING FOR WILDLAND FIRE SEASON DURING THE PANDEMIC

Apr 30, 2020

As we head toward summer, the warm and dry weather calls so many us outdoors to play in the sunshine or seek shade and serenity in the wilderness. That is until air quality or fire danger create risky conditions for our health and safety, a reality of recent summers in our region. While we can all hope for the wind to blow favorably or for rain to quickly squelch out wildfire flames, there are human factors we can control to prevent wildland fires and reduce danger.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cabin fever may have gotten intense for everyone physically distancing to stop the spread. As we safely return to outdoor recreation in our backyards and public lands, the stakes are high to prevent destructive wildland fires and the toxic smoke that destroys our air quality. People with heart and respiratory conditions and now also the people with COVID-19 (diagnosed and undiagnosed) are at increased risk for poor health outcomes when exposed to smoke. We must do all we can to prevent human-caused wildland fires.

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 a recreational fire, please exercise caution:

  • With more people home right now during this COVID-19 pandemic, please consider voluntarily limiting wood burning (indoors/outdoors). Breathing smoke affects the respiratory system and is especially harmful to sensitive populations including youth, seniors, and those with underlying heart and respiratory conditions.
  • Ask first and mind the ban. Check with local authorities about burn bans or restrictions. In Spokane County, local fire officials restrict outdoor burning based on fire danger, which is typically July to September. Always check the Burn Ban Status before starting your fire at (509) 477-4710 or org/current-burning-conditions. Or, subscribe to receive emails of burn restrictions.
  • In Spokane County, recreational fires are permitted on private property and designated areas on public lands when restrictions are not in place. Recreational fires include camp and cooking fires, backyard barbecues, Chimineas and other patio warmers that burn charcoal, natural firewood, or manufactured logs and pellets.
  • Follow recreational fire guidelines. Fires should be in an in-ground pit or ring 25 feet away from any structures or combustibles. Fuel fires with firewood or charcoal. Keep fires small not tall: no larger than 3 feet wide and 2 feet high.
  • Stand guard and extinguish. Have water available. A person capable of extinguishing the fire must attend it at all times, and the fire must be completely extinguished before leaving it.
  • Be a good neighbor. It is always illegal to smoke out your neighbors. If there is bothersome smoke in your neighborhood, and you aren’t in a position to contact the person responsible, call 911.

Here are more ways to reduce the risk of wildfires:

  • Refer to this Wildfire Prevention information from WA DNR regarding recreational land use, campfires, and home landscaping during dry conditions.
  • Cigarettes should be fully extinguished and disposed of in approved ashtrays.
  • Fireworks are banned in Spokane County and on Washington public lands.
  • Keep matches or lighters away from children and talk to them about fire safety.
  • Note: Report wildland fires by calling 911.

 

Did you Know?

 

  • 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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