Residents urged to prepare homes and properties now
VANCOUVER — Earlier this month, Clark County Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway and four other County Fire Marshals from southwest Washington met with officials from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to discuss the outlook for the upcoming wildfire season.
The outlook as reported by the Predictive Services at the National Interagency Fire Center was clear: the prediction for spring and summer continue to indicate warmer and drier than average conditions for the region, particularly west of the Cascades. This means a higher-than-normal potential for wildland fires this season in Clark County.
Already in 2019, there have been 44 fires that have burned approximately 320 acres in southwest Washington. The majority of those fires were in the wildland/urban interface, where homes are located in wooded areas. All but two of those fires were caused by debris burning, emphasizing how easily even a fire that is supposed to be controlled can escape.
“Take this time between now and mid-June to prepare your home and property for the summer fire season,” said Dunaway. “At highest risk are those homes built in the more rural wooded areas of the county, but even urban households should take steps to prevent an outdoor fire from spreading to the home.”
Tips for rural areas include:
- Remove dead plant and tree material within 30 feet of the home
- Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings
- Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter and debris
- Remove small conifers growing between mature trees to reduce the potential for fire spread
- Remove vegetation under trees so a surface fire cannot reach the tree limbs and prune trees up to six to ten feet from the ground
In all home settings, consider taking these steps:
- Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles that could catch embers
- Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors such as mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles
- Remove anything underneath decks or porches – embers can enter these areas and ignite any combustible fuels stored there
Typically, an annual burn ban is imposed from July 15 through Sept. 30. However, Dunaway said it is likely that burn bans or other burning restrictions will be imposed earlier this year. “If you plan to obtain a burning permit to dispose of dead vegetation, please do it soon. Once a ban is in place, the only other option will be to take this material to a wood recycling business.”
Burning permits for small fires, smaller than 10 feet in diameter, are free and can be found at www.clark.wa.gov/sites/default/files/dept/files/community-development/fire/burnpermit.pdf. Be sure to follow the instructions and ensure all burning materials are thoroughly extinguished and cold to the touch when you are finished. Permits for larger fires cost $141 and applications are available at the Clark County Permit Center on the first floor of the Public Service Center at 1300 Franklin St.
More detailed wildfire preparedness tips can be found at www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Wildfire/Wildfire-safety-tips.
Information provided by Clark Co. WA Communications.