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PROTECTING LIFE AND PROPERTY IN THE WILDFIRE URBAN INTERFACE
Here in Spokane Valley Fire District, we have areas of development with structures and infrastructure that are adjacent to lands high-risk for wildfires. Fire prevention experts classify these spaces as Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI). These spaces may be dense forest or other types of wildlands dotted with evergreens, like ponderosa pines, along with other native shrubs and grasses. Proximity to these natural spaces may be a big part of why many of us choose to call these areas home.
Knowing the increased risks of WUI areas is critical information for property owners and the public. It’s important to check the weather conditions and take special caution when the National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings. Red Flag Warnings are issued when temperatures, relative humidity, and winds are ideal for wildland fires. During a Red Flag Warning you should always follow the instructions provided by the fire department. Safety Tips to consider during Red Flag Warnings include: avoid using lawn mowers on dry vegetation, avoid use of other outdoor equipment like chainsaws, do not pull your vehicle over in dry grass, and do not throw cigarettes or matches out of a vehicle.
Also, it is a good idea to make an evacuation plan that includes all routes to safety as some routes may be blocked and pack a go-bag for emergency evacuation. Homeowners’ insurance policies should be reviewed to see if the coverage is adequate for property and personal belongings.
In addition to being prepared, the two most important ways to proactively protect property from a wildfire are to:
1) Create a defensible space around the property, and
2) use fire-resistant materials in the construction of buildings.
To get started, Spokane County residents can request a Firewise USA consultation from the WA Department of Natural Resources (WA-DNR). We can’t predict with any certainty what a fire will do or when the wind will change directions, but these considerations my disrupt the fire and can lead to better outcomes. Additionally, even just one neighbor’s efforts to deter a fire can help other properties from destruction. If more neighbors take the steps to be wildfire prepared, it can make a big difference in your community.
In this video, local residents share their experiences from the Valley View Fires of 2008 that destroyed 11 homes here in Spokane County. Hear from homeowners who received a Firewise USA consultation and took proactive steps to protect their property.
- Julie Happy