Aerial view of wildfire in forest. Burning forest and huge clouds of smoke

We should all do our part to prevent wildfires

School is out this week which means summer fun like backyard bbq’s, bonfires and fireworks. 

Do you recall the wildfires in Washington and California last year which destroyed entire communities?  The economic impact of wildfires has reached $100 billion in some years.

The risk of fire rises significantly in the summer due to several factors.  First, trees, brush and grass is more dry and therefore more susceptible to catching fire. Secondly, more people are out camping or even at home enjoying campfires which can spark wildfires.  And, of course, fireworks.

According to the U.S Department of Interior, As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

In the United States in 2018 there were 58,000 wildfires which burned a combined 8.8 million acres. 

The conditions in our state of Washington are of concern again this year,  Department of Natural Resources Meteorologist Josh Clake spoke with MyNorthwest.com,  “If you were to zoom this out and look at the entire Western US you would see Washington as the bullseye for drought concerns across the entire Western United States,” said DNR Meteorologist Josh Clark, looking at a drought map of Washington state. “So we are under the gun for these hot any dry conditions, we are under the gun for these critical fuel conditions. As we get closer and closer to July and the start of our normal fire season, that’s something to be aware of; be aware of the potential danger in regards of fire.”

To protect family and neighbors, we should all be aware of best practices when it comes to preventing fires and stopping or mitigating their growth.

If you live in a wildfire-prone area, the following are some risk management tips for you to mitigate the risk of suffering a wildfire loss.

  • Be sure your home and business has adequate insurance coverage. You should carry enough coverage to replace your home or building and contents as well enough liability coverage to fund your neighbors’ rebuilding, just in case.
  • Make sure firefighters can identify and access your home, starting with a visible address from the street. Remember that emergency vehicles are large, tall, and wide. Verify that your driveway is at least 12 feet wide and clear of low-hanging branches.
  • Ensure that recreational fires are made in a fire-safe pit or container and completely extinguished before leaving. Avoid lighting fires when high temperatures, high winds, and low humidity are present. Instead, consider composting.
  • Consider noncombustible or fire-resistant roofing materials, such as Class A asphalt shingles, metal, cement, and concrete products, or terra-cotta tiles if you are building a house or planning to replace a roof. These types of roofs are less susceptible to burning embers from a wildfire.
  • Remove any dead branches, leaves, and any other vegetation from your roof and gutters.
  • Remove any dry brush from your yard and stack firewood at least 20 or 25 feet from your home.
  • Create a “fuel-break”—driveways, gravel walkways, or lawns.
  • Prevent sparks from entering your home by covering vents with wire mesh no larger than one-eighth-inch. Cover skylights and chimney outlets with nonflammable screening materials.
  • Use tempered glass in your windows since this material withstands high temperatures from wildfires better than a regular plate or double pane glass.
  • Make trellises of nonflammable metal.
  • Avoid certain exterior siding materials, such as vinyl, which soften and melt easily under high temperatures. Instead, select siding materials such as stucco or masonry, since these resist heat better.

For more tips you can visit the Bellevue, WA fire department website.  http://www.bellevuefirerescue.com/content/prevention/

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