SEATTLE—With the first week of really glorious summer weather behind us, and forecasts calling for more of the same, emergency managers throughout the Pacific Northwest are preparing for a higher-than-average fire season. As tall grasses and foliage dry out—the likelihood of brush, range and timber fires increases, and according to FEMA Regional Administrator Ken Murphy, an informed, responsible and committed public can play a major role in safeguarding property and saving lives.
“Dry conditions increase wildfire risks on both sides of the Cascades—it’s definitely not just an ‘east of the mountains’ thing. Western forests can support thick underbrush that when dry, constitutes a formidable fuel source,” cautions Murphy. “Coastal wildfires can be more challenging for firefighters to access, often burn hotter than their eastern counterparts and threaten more densely populated communities.”
Murphy encourages all homeowners to exercise extreme caution with grills, campfires, trash fires and other heat sources, and to embrace the commonsense commitment to pre-disaster wildfire mitigation accepted in more traditionally recognized wildfire-prone areas.
“It’s not too soon for home owners to engage, by creating defensible perimeters—clearing flammable debris away from homes and structures, particularly in urban interface areas and on wooded tracts,” said Murphy. “We may not be able to stop wildfires from occurring, but— we can and MUST take steps ahead of time to mitigate their worst effects and speed the recovery process.”
Additional wildfire mitigation measures include:
Keep roofs and gutters free of pine needles, leaves, and woodland debris.
· Treat wood siding, cedar shingles, exterior wood paneling and other highly combustible materials with fire retardant chemicals.
· Space landscape plants to limit fire from spreading to surrounding vegetation or structures.
· Store gasoline only in approved containers, and well away from occupied buildings.
· Store firewood and other combustibles away from structures.
· Keep firefighting tools (ladders, shovels, rakes and buckets) handy, and water hoses connected.
· Establish firebreaks around the perimeter of structures, power poles and property.
· Cut back flammable weeds and brush and remove tree branches to a height of 15 feet.
· Keep a non-flammable screen over the flue opening of chimneys or stovepipes.
· Install smoke detectors on every floor, and near sleeping areas.
· Have fire tools (shovel, rake, water bucket and a ladder that can reach the roof) handy.
· Plan and rehearse family evacuation plans.
For more information on how to mitigate the effects of natural disasters visit http://www.fema.gov or http://www.ready.gov.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.