Precautions help property in forests

Precautions help property in forests

29 March 2005

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MANASTASH CANYON – Lazy F Ranch director Dave Burfeind said he’s concerned about the upcoming fire season because of the camp’s location, its neighboring forests and increased fire danger due to drought.

Lazy F Ranch is nestled among tall pines and other evergreens in the Manastash Canyon on Manastash Road. The area is remote – about 12 miles from Damman School on the corner of Manastash and Umptanum roads. It also is a considerable distance from firefighting resources. Kittitas County Fire District 2 Capt. Brian Mellergaard estimated it would take firefighters 10 to 15 minutes to respond to fire at the camp from the district’s Cove Road station.

With the expected fire danger this summer, Burfeind decided it was time to start fireproofing the camp.

“We’ve cut down hazardous trees, cleaned up the brush and pruned other trees and piled everything into a burn pile,” he said. “We do this about three times a year.”

Other things Burfeind is considering are eliminating campfires and keeping close tabs on what is happening in the area, especially if his junior water right is cut off early, as expected.

“I am worried,” Burfeind confessed. “We are in a canyon and the forest comes close to the buildings. There is the potential. We’ll just have to see how it goes. We might have to modify what we do if there is fire danger in the area.”

Department of Natural Resources fire prevention specialist Debbie Robinson is one who is pushing for people like Burfeind to start thinking early about this year’s fire season.

“Don’t wait until you see smoke to start protecting your property now,” she said. “Thirty feet of defensible space can buy you a lot of time.”

Robinson advocates residents remove dead and overhanging branches near their homes and other structures as well as removing leaf accumulation in gutters, near porches and decks. Tall, dry grasses also should be removed, and pruning limbs so the lowest is between six to 10 feet from the ground can stop a fire from climbing to the top of a tree. Having well-irrigated, cleared areas near homes and other structures – at least 30 feet in all directions – will give a homeowner the best chance at stopping a fire, she said.

“Be proactive,” Robinson suggested. “We lose more homes to embers than we do to flames.”

District 2 Chief John Sinclair said his department also is aware of the potential for this year’s fire season and said the district has started training firefighters on wildland firefighting techniques at the start of the new year. He wants to be ready in case predictions do come true.

“There is no water,” Sinclair said. “And we are going to get some growth from the remaining moisture. Unless it is a rainy spring or summer – which is not predicted – I think we’ll probably have one of the worst fire seasons we’ve experienced in a long time.”

One of Sinclair’s fears is the early shut off of junior irrigation districts. The district fights fires in rural Kittitas County where there are no fire hydrants. Firefighters often “draft” water from the canals into district rigs for use during fires.

“There is a chance we’ll lose our secondary source of water,” Sinclair said. “Now is the time for people to start looking at their own place and do what they can for structural protection and building a defensible space. Everything they do helps us help them.”

The United Methodist Church-owned camp has 110 acres with 16 buildings that need fire protection. Burfeind said the preventative measures are mostly for esthetics at this point, but he also realizes the importance of maintaining a cleared area around the camp.

“I think we are in good shape,” he said.

Future burn ban?

The weather is what primarily drives a decision to implement a burn ban, Kittitas County Fire District 2 Chief John Sinclair said.

Whether or not a burn ban is declared is still up in the air, though it is being considered.


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