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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Valley Fire, Fire District 8 team up to raise awareness on wildfire preparedness in rural areas through planned workshop

Elysia Spencer, left, a community risk reduction specialist with the Spokane Valley Fire Department, and Marty Long, a division chief with Spokane County Fire District 8, are seen  Thursday, April 26, 2018, at Fire District 8, Station 82 in Valleyford. The two departments are teaming up to give a wildfire preparedness workshop Saturday, May 5, that will offer a checklist of ways residents can protect their homes and properties. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

The grass is green and the rain has been falling, but it’s never too early in the year to think about the fire danger that comes when the rain stops and grass and trees dry out.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane County Fire District 8 are teaming up to offer a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day workshop Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 3606 S. Schafer Road. Refreshments will be served.

One of the key messages at the workshop will be defensible space, the area around the home that should be kept “clean and green” – clear of debris and wildfire fuel and well-watered.

People don’t only have to worry about an approaching fire, said District 8 Division Chief of Fire Prevention Marty Long. “It’s more the ember shower that goes out ahead of the fire,” he said.

Embers, small burning bits of debris, can be carried on the wind up to a mile ahead of the fire.

Firefighters recommend that “Immediate zone” within 5 feet of a home be kept clear of all combustible materials, including landscaping and stacks of firewood. The next zone, from 5 to 30 feet, should be watered and landscaped with only a handful of trees and/or shrubs. Trees should be spaced at least 18 feet away from each other and should be at least 10 feet away from the home. All trees should have their lower branches pruned so flames can’t climb the tree easily.

“The idea is to stop the connectivity from the ground fire,” Long said.

The two districts are offering the workshop because their boundaries include many homes in rural areas and in the urban/wildland interface.

Local fire districts and the Department of Natural Resources will come to your property to evaluate your defensible space and make suggestions for improvement. People just need to call their fire district or DNR to request it.

The suggestions made by firefighters will vary depending on the home and the surrounding geography, said Valley Fire Community Risk Reduction Specialist Elysia Spencer.

“Everybody’s property is going to be different,” she said. “It may be simple modifications.”

Long said he cannot stress enough the importance of good defensible space around a home. “I’ve seen it work,” he said.

In rural areas it is particularly important for a home’s address to be clearly marked on the main road. Homes often have long driveways and firefighters can lose time going down the wrong driveway. A fire is easy for first responders to see, but if a person is having a medical problem the delay could be costly.

“I can’t see you having a heart attack in your house,” Long said. “It delays our help.”

Most fire departments and fire districts in the area, including Valley Fire and Fire District 8, will provide an address sign to those who need it.

People are also urged to sign up for Alert Spokane so they will be notified of evacuation notices in their area.

A Level 1 notification is just to let people know there is a fire in the area and a Level 2 notification means people should pack the essentials and prepare to leave.

A Level 3 evacuation order means there is immediate danger and people must leave.