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Community Comment

Defensible living…

Good morning, Netizens...

If you are among the very lucky this morning, you awoke when your alarm clock went off, and groaning to yourself at the thought of another Day in the World, you went about the business of making yourself presentable for contemporary society. On the other hand, if you live in one of the areas where wildfires drove through the countryside yesterday, you either woke up at a friend's a relative's house or worse still, at one of the Red Cross shelters where you sit drinking coffee out of Styrofoam cups and wondering when you will be allowed to go home -- if you still have a place to call home.

Where once you marveled at the beauty of the hills around your home, the gentle pathways you frequently trod on long, contemplative walks through the hills, today, you perhaps regard the hills with suspicion, even dread, almost as if they were your enemies rather than part of your community, your life. If you are one of several who lost everything in yesterday's fire, you not only mourn your losses but you also may be looking for someone, some entity to blame for your misfortune. While I join you in mourning your losses, having intimately experienced a number of wildfires in other places, other times, please remember that each time you point a finger of blame for losses in a wildfire, there are four fingers pointing inexorably back at you.

Before you react to that statement, you might consider the following:

This fire more or less happened once before, in Firestorm. Almost the same place, the same weather conditions, and even the same development was affected in some cases. Apparently only a few residents learned anything from those fateful days so many years ago. Here are some practical lessons you can learn from the wildfire yesterday.

Know and understand the implications of the term “Defensible fire zone” and put it into practice, even if you have no idea where to begin. You need to clean all brush, trees and highly-combustible material away from your house. Create green belt buffer zones on all four sides of your house to prevent an encroaching wild fire from getting close to your house.

Know and use a good defense posture. If possible, have a high-pressure water pump on the premises that, when a wild fire is heading your way, you can use to wet down your property. A garden hose simply will not get the job done, in most cases. Keep a portable generator on hand because even if you survive the fire untouched, it may be days before electrical power is restored.

Most important of all, when you live in the woods, be aware of your environment. I was stunned yesterday when I heard of a number of households that, when the police came to order an evacuation, the homeowners had no idea there was a fire burning nearby, despite the smoke in the air. This is not your typical house in suburbia. You need to treat the woods with respect if you are going to live among the trees.


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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.