North Central Washington is a complex natural environment to live in. Fire has been a part of this place for millennia; erasing and re-writing the landscape and enlivening the forest with new growth while eliminating the overstock of debris and turning it back into accessible nutrients. Many of the forest species in this part of the world have evolved to co-exist with fire. It is humans who are the most uncomfortable with the unpredictability of this act of nature and have tried to control the environment through its suppression. But, we need to concede to the power of fire and accept that we have chosen to live within its realm. It is our responsibility to be sure that we have taken the necessary steps to bring a fire-wise mindset to our homes and yards. Spring is the perfect time to begin thinking about this year’s fire season. Here are some helpful tips to get you started down the road to a more fire adapted lifestyle.
Needles are nature’s tinder. Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves from within a minimum of 5 feet of a home’s foundation. As time permits – continue up to a 30 foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles or yard waste containers.
If you heat with wood, get out your measuring tape and see how close wood piles are located to your home. If they are closer than 30 feet, they need to be relocated and moved at least 30’ away from structures.
Decks and roofs are an extension of your dwelling and need to be treated as such even though they exist outside the walls of your home. Sweep porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Rake under decks, porches, sheds and play structures and dispose of debris. Remove items stored under decks and porches and relocate them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Clear needles and debris from your home’s rooflines, gutters and roof valleys.
Tall, dry grasses encourage the spread of fire. Mow grasses to a height of four inches or less and irrigate as is appropriate. Mowing should be done early on in the season as the muffler of a riding lawn mower can be hot enough to start a fire during the height of summer.
On mature trees, use hand pruners and loppers to remove low-hanging branches up to a height of 4 feet from the ground (specific height depends on the type and size of tree). Pole saws can be used to limb trees up to a height of 15 feet to prevent a ‘ladder’ effect; allowing fire to climb into the canopy. To prevent accidental electrocution, pole saws should not be used in proximity to power lines.
Collect downed tree limbs and broken branches and take them to a disposal site.
Talk to your neighbors and encourage them to be Fire Wise. Join forces with neighbors and pool your resources to pay for a chipper service to remove slash from your adjoining properties.
If you would like more information on living in a fire adapted community, the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition will be hosting a ‘Leavenworth Community Wildfire Preparedness Week’ during the last week of April. Master Gardeners will be participating with a Firewise Landscaping class being held at the Wenatchee River Institute on Tuesday April 28th from 6 -7:30 PM in the Barn at the Barn Beach Reserve. More information will be posted on the WRI website. The CWSC will be in attendance as well with cost-share information and resources for property owners. Here’s to a safe and fire-wise summer! Happy Gardening.