Chief’s Corner: Wildland fire preparedness

Despite the record setting December snow, we are finding ourselves in the middle of another relatively dry winter. It is never too early to start thinking about preparing for the upcoming fire season.

Local fire departments rely on homeowners and the public to help prevent life and property losses from wildland fires. We accomplish this through public cooperation and enforcement of California’s defensible space laws. These laws are designed to help firefighters protect your home during a wildland fire and most importantly, help your home stand alone when firefighting resources are limited.

Wildfires spread by a combination of a moving, flaming fire front, and airborne embers carried by smoke and wind. Buildings ignite during wildfires because of one or more of the three basic wildfire exposures: embers, radiant heat, and direct flame contact.

Embers are light enough to be blown through the air and can result in the rapid spread of wildfire by spotting, where blown embers start other fires. If these embers land on or near your home, they can easily ignite nearby vegetation or accumulated debris or even enter the house or attic through openings or vents, igniting combustible materials in those locations. These ignition sources can subject your home to either a direct flame contact exposure, where the flame actually touches the home, or a radiant heat exposure. If the fire is close enough to a combustible material, or radiant heat is high enough, an ignition will result. With any of these exposures, if no one is available to extinguish the fire, but there is adequate fuel sources, the initially small fire will grow into a larger one.

A coupled approach, using home hardening and defensible space, is necessary to provide the greatest level of protection for your home. Home hardening means making your home and property more resilient against the threat of a wildfire. When it comes to protecting your home against wildfires, fire resistant building material and design considerations cannot be ignored. Retrofitting an existing home may incur additional expenses, but the investment is usually worth it. Things to consider upgrading to fire resistive materials include roofs, soffits and eaves, gutters, vents, siding, windows, decks, porches, fencing and outdoor furniture to name a few. Learn more about home hardening at Decades of research and post fire assessments have provided clear evidence that building materials and design, coupled with fire resistant landscaping, are the most important factors influencing home survivability during a wildfire.

We want to increase public awareness so that we can all have a fun, fire-free summer. Consider all of the hardening options for your home, get your defensible space in compliance early and maintain it until the fall moisture arrives. Our goal is to keep our community lean, clean and green!

Allen Riley is the Olympic Valley Fire Department fire chief

Allen Riley

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User