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Report an uncontrolled wildfire: call
EMC Administrative Manager: 541-480-8337
EMC Systems Manager: 509-699-0573
In Late 2017 in light of several significant fire seasons in the Methow Valley, the Edelweiss Board recognized the need to more proactively address wildfire issues in our community and established a Firewise Committee. The Committee included several Board and a number of community members who were willing to develop a Firewise strategy for the community. In early 2018, the Committee began working to bring awareness of fire issues and to begin the process of becoming a “Firewise Community”. Initial efforts involved researching the key Firewise steps, which included contacting Okanogan Conservation District (OKCD). OKCD, initially met with several members of the Firewise Committee during the spring/summer of 2018 and provided advice on steps that the community needed to take to become recognized as Firewise. They noted that our establishment of a Committee was an important initial (and required) step and we requested that they complete a formal Community Wildfire Risk Assessment which was conducted in June of 2018. A draft report was subsequently provided to the Committee and Edelweiss Board in August of 2018, and with only a few minor corrections the report was finalized and accepted.
Community Wildfire Risk Assessment
This assessment was focused on the overarching community and not individual homes or properties; however, many homeowners had a free property assessment conducted by OKCD and all Edelweiss Community members are encouraged to have their personal properties evaluated. The assessment divided the community into 4 areas based upon common topography and location, these included: Fawn Creek, Goat Creek Bench, Upper Central and Cassal Creek. The assessment used a scoring criterion to determine hazard with the following 4 hazard ratings: low, moderate, high and extreme. All four zones had a similar risk rating of: high. The assessment was reasonably comprehensive and evaluated a broad range of factors including: means of access, road conditions, fire service access, vegetation, defensible space, topography, existing building construction including roofing materials, available fire protection, organized response resources, and utilities.
Committee Members: Chuck Timchalk – Chair, Peter Speer, MaryAnn Timchalk, Lin Lasater, Alex Hall, Danny Karrel, Bill Huff, Pat Leigh, Marian Osborne.
Firewise Community FAQ
Firewise principals focus on mitigating a home’s vulnerability to wildland fire through actions undertaken within the defensible space, such as reduction of fuel sources.
Q: What is a Firewise Community?
A:The Firewise Communities/USA program recognizes communities for working together to protect residents and property from fire in the wildland/urban interface. To be recognized as a Firewise Communities/USA site, local communities must create and implement a local plan with cooperative assistance from state forestry agencies and local fire staff. In addition, communities are required to continue regular maintenance and education to retain recognition status
Q: What is “Defensible Space”?
A: Information learned from breakthrough research conducted on the ground after fires, as well as through experiments & models, shows that homes ignite due to the condition of the home itself, & everything around it, up to 200’ away, depending on slope and vegetation. This area is called the “defensible space” or “home ignition zone.” Firewise principals focus on mitigating a home’s vulnerability to wildland fire through actions undertaken within the defensible space, such as reduction of fuel sources.
Source: The basics of defensible space and the “home ignition zone,” Firewise Communities
Q:“Why are we focusing on ladder fuels & tree crown density?”
A: To reduce the likelihood of crown fires, which occur when a ladder of vegetation or other fuels allows fire to climb to the tops of pine & fir trees. Crown fires produce the largest flames & farthest reaching embers. In fact, crown fire flames can be 100’ or more in height & can send burning embers more than a mile away. Those embers can ignite other fuels such as accumulated needles, wood stacks, door mats, decks, & homes.
Source: Living with Fire: A Guide for the Homeowner, Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group.
a. Get an official 911 address sign to help firefighters and other emergency services find you.
b. Make your home and property more Firewise. Creating defensible space, preparing your home for wildfire, and planning your landscape can go a long way to reduce your home ignition risk.
Get numerous specific tips and tools at Firewise.org to reduce your home ignition risk
Read “Landscaping in Fire Country: How to Design a Firewise Yard” from the Okanogan Conservation District.
Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes.
Read “Landscaping in Fire Country: How the Right Plants may Reduce your Risk from Wildfires” by the Methow Conservancy.
c. The Okanogan Conservation District provides free site visits to evaluate the fire hazard to homes and other structures. Click here to see the video recordings OCD made of the local firewise workshops held August 16th, 2014.
d. The Washington Department of Natural Resources also has staff that will conduct individual home owners association or neighborhood site visits to address Firewise practices and wildlife habitat enhancement. Guy Gifford is the WDNR contact for these visits and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
a. Recommended Firewise Actions for Homes PDF
b. Recommended Firewise Actions for Lots & Structures PDF
c. Recommended Firewise Actions for Emergency Access & Egress PDF
d. Recommended Firewise Actions for New Construction & Major Remodeling PDF
e. Recommended Firewise Actions for Vacant Lots PDF
f. How to Prevent Wildfires from Spreading
There are many things that homeowners can do to prevent wildfires from spreading in their community.
PLANT FIRE-RESISTANT PLANTS
There are no fireproof plants, but there are fire-resistant plants. These plants have a high moisture content and are resistant to ignition. Some examples of fire-resistant plants include aloe, California Fuchsia, and French lavender. The best fire-resistant plants for your home will be plants that are native to your area. Talk to your landscaper to get fire-resistant plants installed in your landscaping.
THIN PLANTS AND TREES IN THE DEFENSIBLE ZONE
Do not eliminate plants from your yard entirely, but thin them to discourage wildfire from leaping from one plant to another in the area around your home. Leave at least 10 feet between trees. When planting new plants in your landscaping, leave space between specimens.
WATER YOUR LANDSCAPING
Keep your landscaping properly watered. How much you must water your landscape depends on what kind of plants are on your property. Talk to a landscaper for guidance. Adjust your watering based on the temperature outside, heat and humidity, and other environmental factors.
PRUNE AWAY DEAD BRANCHES AND SHRUBS
Keep your plants properly pruned to eliminate dry branches and dying plants. This requires regular maintenance throughout the year. Pick up dead leaves and cut away branches. While you're at it, remove objects from your landscaping like pine cones, acorns and other seeds that are flammable and can create small volunteer plants that will need clearing away at a later time.
MAINTAIN THE HEIGHT OF YOUR GRASS
Do not allow your grass to grow more than four inches tall. Avoid planting grasses that will become dry and brittle in the summer.
Building in a Fire Prone Area
a. These two webinars have some good photos showing how real fire interacts with various elements of construction: "Material and Design Considerations for Building in Wildfire Prone Areas" and "Before Fire Building Materials & Home Design"
b. "Firewise Guide to Landscape and Construction," Firewise Communities.
c. "Living with Fire: A Guide for the Homeowner," Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group.
d. Safety Tips, Okanogan County Fire District
RETROFIT YOUR HOME
Many homes are not built to be fire safe. They are often made of flammable materials that can easily ignite in the event of a wildfire event. Fortunately, most homes can be retrofitted with non-combustible materials that can prevent the structure from burning. Some of the most useful things a homeowner can do to protect their home is to replace their old roof with a non-combustible roofing material, like metal or clay. Siding can be replaced with a non-flammable material like stucco, brick or stone.
Other things you can do to protect your home from wildfire includes:
1. Install screening on vents
2. Install spark arrestors in chimneys
3. Install tempered glass on your windows
4. Cover the undersides of your deck with fire-resistant material
a. Emergency Notification System
b. Neighborhood meetings/leaders(?) - who is fragile and needs help?
c. Community Bulletin Boards – located at the pool and campground.
d. If you see fire or smoke call 911 immediately!
e. Accessing Information During a Fire
e.i. Incident Information System (Inciweb) for Washington State
e.ii. Okanogan County Emergency Management Facebook page
e.iii. Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page
e.iv. Methow Valley News Facebook page
e.v. Methow Conservancy Facebook page
e.vi. Webcams in the Methow Valley
e.vii. Methownet.com Bulletin board
e.viii. The Local Radio Station KOZI
f. Evacuation Map
There are 3 levels of evacuation warnings:
LEVEL 1: A Level 1 Evacuation means "BE READY" for potential evacuation. GET YOUR EVACUATION SUPPLIES TOGETHER.
LEVEL 2: A Level 2 Evacuation means "BE SET" to Evacuate. YOU MUST PREPARE TO LEAVE AT A MOMENTS NOTICE.
LEVEL 3: A Level 3 Evacuation means "GO" Evacuate NOW, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!
TAKING SHELTER FROM WILDFIRE
Most of the time, people are evacuated before a wildfire enters their community. Sometimes, evacuation is not possible. Sheltering in place inside a home or even a car can save your life. Wildfires are loud, smoky and very hot, and sheltering in place as a wildfire roars around your home can be a terrifying experience. If you ever find yourself in a house or car surrounded by wildfire, suppress the urge to run outside. Stay indoors. You are safer in your home or vehicle than you are outside. It's best to be inside a home or structure, especially if the home is made from noncombustible roof and siding, and is about 30 feet from all combustible material.
1. Stay inside; do not leave.
2. Fill buckets, bathtubs and sinks with water.
3. Bring all pets indoors and put them in carriers.
4. Place wet towels at the bottoms of all exterior doors.
5. Turn off all climate control systems and interior fans.
6. Gather batteries and flashlights for a power outage.
7. Close, but do not lock, windows and doors.
8. Keep furniture away from windows.
9. Gather inside your home, away from exterior rooms, windows and doors.
10. Keep on your interior lights to help firefighters find your home.
If you must shelter in place in a vehicle, park your vehicle away from vegetation.
1. Close, but do not lock, your windows and doors.
2. Turn off your air conditioner and outside vents.
3. Turn on your headlights and emergency flashers.
4. Lay under a woolen blanket on the floor.
Once the fire has passed by the car or house, you may leave and walk in the direction of an area that has already burned.
While the fires are burning, smoke and air quality are issues. For up-to-date information on WA and local air quality, go to:
a. WA's Air Monitoring Network
b. Regional Smoke Forecast
c. Washington State Department of Ecology Air Monitoring Stations
d. "World Air Quality Index" Project with local sites and a searchable real-time database
e. "Methow Air" app for iPhones and iPads
f. Evacuation Routes Map
AFTER A WILDFIRE
Once the fire is out, many homeowners are anxious to return to their property. Most of the time, fire authorities or local officials will prevent people from returning to their homes until the area is deemed safe. Do not attempt to return to your home until you are allowed. Returning early could lead to injury or further damage to property.
If you are allowed to return to your home, and your home is still in useable condition, inspect the site thoroughly. Go in your attic, check your crawl space, look under your deck and in other hidden parts of your home. Look for embers, signs of smoke, active flames and damage. Even if your home appears to be in satisfactory condition, there could be unseen damage.
Check the area periodically during the first day to ensure that no potentially dangerous embers or coals are in the area. Coals can continue to be hot for hours or even days after the fire has left. Failure to notice a burning coal could lead to a potential flare-up, which could cause more fire and more damage.
If your property is damaged in any way, contact your insurance company. Standard homeowners insurance will cover damage from wildfires. Your insurer can give you guidance that can help you start a claim. Rebuilding after a wildfire can take time. Even if your home has survived, other homes or businesses in your community may be gone.
REBUILDING BECOMES AN OPPORTUNITY
After the fire, there may be more effort from leadership in your area to protect your community from future wildfires. This is an excellent chance to join the conversation and become a part of the solution. Wildfires are a natural event, and no amount of community planning can ever fully eliminate the risk that comes from living in a fire-prone area. However, when communities come together to make their towns more fire safe, lives can be saved. Work together with your neighbors to improve your fire safety and communication during natural disasters.
BE AWARE OF THE RISKS
Wildfires can strip the landscape of trees and plants that hold the earth in place. Erosion can impact topography and water quality in your area. If you live at the base of a large hill or mountain, mudslides may be a risk in the future. The faster vegetation returns to your area, the better. This may be something to address at community meetings. In addition, erosion can lead to sediment that washes away into local water supplies, which can affect water quality in your area.
Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Okanogan Conservation District
1251 S. 2nd Ave., Rm. 102, Okanogan, WA 98840