By the time the firefighters reached the house on Rambo Road, they thought it was too late. Flames danced within 75 feet of the home and moved at lightning speed.
“Trees were crowning right near the home,” said Gus Gifford of the state Department of Natural Resources.
The crew retreated, expecting the worst. But an hour later, they came back to find the house undamaged.
Thirty feet of “defensible space” saved the home, Gifford said. “Basically, the fire burned through the area, but the house was still standing.
A shed about 50 feet from the house - outside the defensible space - burned to the ground, Gifford said.
The 30-foot barrier is one of the safety steps officials recommend to owners of homes in timber or brush country. Such homes are especially at risk this summer as the tall green grass that sprang up during a wet spring turns dry and brown.
The combination of that natural kindling and strong, hot winds leads to “high potential for these large fires,” Gifford said. “It burns like a match.”
The wind pushes the blaze so fast that fire trucks can’t keep up. Airplanes can keep up, but they can’t put the fire out. All they do is knock the flames down, Gifford said.
“People say bomb, bomb, bomb” the fire with retardant, he said. “But there’s still heat. The people on the ground have to put the fire out.”
Light winds are forecast later this week by the National Weather Service, but high temperatures in the 90s are expected through Thursday.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Reducing fire damage Tips to decrease fire danger: Houses in timber or brush areas should be surrounded by at least 30 feet of defensible “green space” that has no more than two or three hardwood trees and a few green, succulent bushes. Keep roof and lawn free of pine needles. The next 300 feet outside the defensible space should be kept thinned and pruned so flames don’t “climb the ladder” of small branches to set tops of trees ablaze. Roof eaves should be closed or “boxed in” to prevent embers from starting a fire beneath the roof. Don’t use cedar-shake roofs. Use composite, tile or metal roofing materials. Make the house address easily readable by putting it along the driveway within 25 feet of the road. Call the state Department of Natural Resources for more tips. Dial 1-800-527-3305 and then press “0.”