Morning Star becomes a Firewise Community | Environment
Chainsaws were buzzing at Morning Star Boys Ranch on Wednesday morning as crews worked to better prepare the land to defend itself against a wildfire. Morning Star teamed up with the Spokane Conservation District to become a Firewise Community and are hoping others in Spokane County will follow suit.
“We have a history of some devastating wildfires in the area,” said Jim Armstrong of SCD. That’s why SCD joined Morning Star as a Firewise Community. Firewise is a national program that encourages homeowners and neighbors to prepare their homes in the case of a wildfire. In Washington, Firewise is supported by the Department of Natural Resources.
While Spokane County finished the 2013 summer without any major wildfires the danger that they pose is very real. Armstrong said that county has around 2,500 acres of land that are considered high risk for fires. Firewise helps to clear out debris and tidy up forest areas so that if a wildfire does break out it’s easier to contain and extinguish.
Morning Star has a 60 acre area of forest that if ignited would not only threaten the ranch, but the homes nestled on the other side of the trees. Crews today worked to clear small trees that were crowded and limbed tree branches that were below 10 feet.
“It’s easy to fight a fire that’s on the ground,” said Armstrong. Once a fire climbs into the forest canopy it becomes significantly more powerful and more difficult to put out. However, Firewise isn’t just contained to forest. The program helps to educate homeowners about the fire dangers they may not even see.
Imagine it’s the hottest day of the year and someone is walking around your home dropping lit matches on the parched ground. What would catch fire? Old lumber, building materials, slash piles, and any clutter would become a threat to your home. Firewise shows homeowners what to clear as well as how to make sure your home is visible and easy to find in the event that it’s threatened by flames.
“It’s one of the most devastating things that a family can go through,” said Armstrong adding that it’s easier to clear debris than it is to rebuild a home, and memories and photographs can never be replaced.
It’s a lesson that the residents living near the Valley View wild fire in July 2009 learned. The community there had actually started a Firewise program and was working with SCD to form a plan, however not all the homeowners there had implemented the programs at their homes yet when the fire broke out.
“Those homes that had implemented did not burn,” said Vicki Carter, Director of SCD. Many neighborhoods around Spokane County have implemented Firewise programs including Hangman Hills which was hit with a devastating wildfire back in 1987 that destroyed 35 homes. SCD hopes that when neighbors in the Glenrose community have a look at the Firewise work done at Morning Star that they’ll implement their own program.
“It’s just been a great program in Spokane and will continue to be,” said Spokane Fire Department Battalion Chief Joel Fielder warning that fires know no boundaries.
Morning Star is grateful to have the work done to prepare them for a wildfire and Ron Irwin, Director of Communications for the ranch encourages everyone to consider becoming a Firewise Community.
“There are resources available for people here to participate in this program,” said Irwin. Most Firewise Communities are able to participate at no cost to homeowners.
For more information on how your neighborhood can become a Firewise Community visit www.firewise.org.