The fire department seeks to reduce wildland fire loss proactively through no-enforcement style surveys
BRUSH PRAIRIE — Last year in the U.S. there were over 58,000 wildland fires. Just this year, over 16,000 have occured, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
It is believed that 90 percent of these fires are caused by human error or malicious intent, according to the Department of the Interior.
In the northwest section of Clark County, Fire District 3 is working to preemptively combat the loss created by wildland fires; both of property and life.
Free, flexible and with no enforcement or penalization component, District 3 is offering home and property inspections through there wildland fire risk survey. The service is voluntary and only requires a phone call or visit to their website.
The Fire Risk Specialist Program, as it is known, is targeted at educating home owners about the best practices to protect their assets from potential fires. It also allows for the fire department to collect data on the homes; covering everything from the access points, to the escape routes, to the nearest fire hydrant, to the feasibility of getting a large fire engine there in an emergency.
This information is placed in the department’s call notes, and allows for a better prepared agency.
“We see value in going door-to door and helping folks to identify what they can do to make their homes safer in the event of a wildfire,” said Chris Drone, the fire marshall for Fire District 3. “It’s a two-prong approach; we like to educate the homeowner, the citizen, and then also we’re gathering data.”
Much of Fire District 3 is located in the rural, forested foothills of the Cascades and the homes there are under private ownership, the agency’s summary points out. Now, this region is listed as one of 12 areas in the state of Washington as being at high risk for wildland fires.
“Within the rural areas, it’s growing. Clark County is growing faster than ever before,” Drone said. “We want to make sure we track where these homes are, what the risks are, and we can offer appropriate service to these folks.”
“There’s more that we do than respond to emergencies, we’re proactive,” Drone said.
With the goal of making contact with at least 300 homeowners this summer season, the department is already making progress, with neighbors referring neighbors and inspections being completed with positive response from those surveyed.
“For the community, it’s really good for us to meet the firefighters because we only see them on emergencies,” said Brush Prairie homeowner Nancy, who had a survey done at her home. “I learned stuff today that I wasn’t aware of, and so I feel that I’m pretty lucky in my situation.”
The street Nancy lives off of has a Road Committee with several branches of responsibility, much like a neighborhood association. One branch is disaster preparedness, which Nancy said she is very interested.
After her neighbor, who is also on the disaster preparedness branch, had a Fire Risk Survey conducted, Nancy said she was inspired to do likewise with her home and acres of property.
An added benefit pointed out by Drone and other firefighters was the community connection and outreach that is accomplished through such inspections; much like Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Vancouver Police’s PAL program.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity to get to know our community better,” said Dawson Shoup, a firefighter with District 3 who routinely does the inspections. “If they want we can go and do a survey, which is pretty much just a walk around the house, and we just give them tips on things they can do to keep their house safe; safer from fires.”
Fire District 3 says that in past years, they have had a fairly high percentage of residents surveyed, call back saying they already had or intended to make the changes to their properties and homes suggested in their evaluation.
To schedule a survey, or find more information about the process, contact Fire District 3 online or call (360) 892-2331.