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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Fire experts ”preparing for the worst”

An Airway Heights prison inmate helps thin a timber stand near The Ridge at Hangman on Friday. 
 (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
An Airway Heights prison inmate helps thin a timber stand near The Ridge at Hangman on Friday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Wildfires were a big concern for Bill Bealer when he and his wife decided to build a house south of Spokane.

When construction was completed last year, the couple moved into a home with a non-flammable roof, deck and siding and a lawn with fire-resistant plants.

“It’s not a matter of if a fire will come through here,” Bealer said. “It’s a matter of when.”

That’s the attitude that area fire officials would like to see in more people who live on the edge of wilderness – especially as the state faces drought.

“We’re preparing for the worst. We are quite concerned and really want to get the word out to the public,” said Steve Harris, fire prevention coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. “Fire season is going to be here in no time at all.”

As of last week, the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., listed areas around Spokane in moderate and severe droughts. In March, Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a statewide drought emergency.

Brian Anderson, deputy chief of Spokane County Fire District 3, said drought or not, residents should minimize fire danger on their property.

“Everybody should prepare themselves the same no matter the conditions,” Anderson said. “I wish more people took it seriously.”

Anderson recommends that homeowners clear yards, in part to allow easy access for firetrucks. He also said tree limbs should be trimmed well above the ground, and flammable debris removed.

“The more you help yourself, the more we can help you,” Anderson said.

Harris said people should create at least a 30-foot buffer free of flammable material around their homes. In especially fire-prone areas, folks should consider a 100-foot buffer on the south and west sides of their residences because that’s the direction from which fires often come.

Bealer’s neighborhood, which borders Hangman Valley Golf Course, was threatened by fire in 2002. Fifteen years earlier, more than 20 homes in that area burned in a wildfire. The 2002 blaze spurred neighbors in the development, The Ridge at Hangman, to create a fire-prevention committee. The group is working with the Department of Natural Resources to educate residents and identify areas that should be thinned.

“It takes cooperation between homeowners,” Harris said. “When you get everyone on board you can attack it as a group and make a difference.”

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