USA — The last couple of years have seen Western North Carolina emerge from a period of drought. Our rivers and streams returned to normal levels and wells filled back up. Rain has been noticeably absent in these weeks of late winter, and the recent forest fire activity should serve as a reminder that the woods we love so dearly are kindling dry. We urge everyone to be careful with even the smallest of sparks and homeowners to take some precautions to protect their homes.
Earlier this month a 275-acre fire near Saluda required the evacuation of five families as 26 structures were threatened, nine of which were inside the fire perimeter. Over the weekend of March 4 and 5, almost 25 woods fires were reported. Fifteen blazes sprang up in Madison County alone. Thanks to a lot of hard work by area fire crews, the wildfires didnt turn into the monster fires we associate with Western states.
Its no secret more and more people are moving to WNC. In many cases, they elect to build homes deep in the mountains, and providing protection for those structures is becoming increasing difficult. Many of these hide-away homes have very limited access and are often surrounded by natural vegetation.
Western North Carolina homeowners should take every opportunity to remove dry vegetation and other debris from the immediate area surrounding their home, said Keith M. Jenkins, of the N.C. Division of Forest Resources. In the event equipment is not available or cannot reach the house, these precautionary measures will increase its chances of surviving a wildfire.
Indeed, when making the tough decision to risk the lives of firefighters to save homes, this defensible space can make a difference.
The primarily objective of any firefighter is to provide for safety first, both the public and themselves, says Jenkins. There can easily be times when fire managers have to decide if it is worth the risk of a firefighters safety to attempt to defend a home where defensible space is not present.
For more information, Jenkins directs homeowners to http://www.ncfirewise.org/ or to contact a local forest service representative.
When looking at our wooded areas, lets keep in mind that the forest floor is covered in combustible materials. Tinder-dry leaves and sticks can ignite and spread fire as if coated in gasoline or another accelerant. To protect our homes, citizens should maintain a barrier of fire-resistant flora kept clear of dry fuel for fires.
Along with praying for rain, these simple steps are our best defense against wildfire.