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Plan now for that long, dry season of fire

It’s hard to imagine the threat of wildland fire when rain is pelting you in the face, but there may be no better time. 

The start of summer was officially Monday, June 21, but it’s hard to believe when you look up at the green hillsides and snow-capped peaks of the Missions. It’s been such a moist June that you could almost believe someone extended May by about three or four weeks.

All that rain has created some wonderfully tall grass in pastures. I know my horses sure appreciate it. It’s also made for some very lush, green landscapes that typically start to turn a bit brown this time of year.

It’s those areas of brown that typically warn us that fire season is just around the corner, so most of the valley may be forgetting that we’ll still have one. Certainly, we’ll have a period of summer where wildland fires will once again spark to life. The question is how soon and how intense will they be.

It’s true that the longer we have these frequent shower systems roll through the valley the longer the delay of the start of fire season. But, all that rain could also make things worse. More grass and groundcover growth is literally adding fuel to the fire that may spark down the road. 

I’ve heard several firefighters explain that watching all that spring growth in May and June is like watching someone set the stage for a bigger, more robust fire in August. Nobody can predict accurately how bad any fire season will be, but much of its severity depends on how much moisture you can squeeze out of July and even August to help dampen those fuels down a notch or two.

So, with a careful eye, we should be appreciating the moisture that we do get but also looking forward to how we can mitigate the inevitable threat we face. Now is a perfect time to take a hard, discerning look at our homes and property to determine how best we can protect it from the wildland fire that will eventually lick at our front door.

Look over your property and give some thought to how fire can move up the ladder to your home. Could it start in grasses and move up the side of a wall? Could it climb up a tree and leap over to your roof? 

Will a bush serve as a torch to light up your barn? Will a gravel road protect one side of your garage or will a prevailing wind blow embers or smoldering pinecones onto your deck? 

Landscaping changes now could reduce those threats. Putting gravel or non-combustible material around your structures can provide a barrier that could stop and creeping fire. Installing lawn irrigation around the perimeter of your house will create a green barrier to fire. 

Moving fuels away from your house is another good way of reducing fire threat. Stacking cord wood close to your back door might make it convenient to haul in wood during January, but it also creates perfect kindling for a larger structure fire. 

Overhanging branches of trees can be perfect delivery systems for fire to buildings. Trimming them back now can push back the reach of a fire in August. 

There’s a lot you can do now to prevent fire from destroying your property. Check out www.firewise.org and browse through its many recommendations on how you can make your property more defensible. 

Don’t let those lush green hillsides and pastures fool you. Behind all of that green we see is a lot of combustible material that’s waiting to be sparked into life. 

You may not be able to prevent a tornado from attacking your house and property, but you can do a lot to defend your home against fire. Start now to reduce the ladders of fire that can destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to build. 

Waiting until that long, hot and dry season is upon you might be too late.

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