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Hot, dry conditions raise fire danger

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

July 22, 2006

Temperatures cresting 100 degrees this weekend in Hood River County has fire agencies reminding homeowners that a little preparation goes a long way in protecting their homes against fires.

“Part of the object here is to remove ladder fuels so if fire comes through it will stay on the ground,” said West Side Fire Assistant Chief Peter Mackwell.

He and a three-man crew limbed trees Wednesday afternoon near Stonehedge Gardens as part of countywide activities designed to reduce fire danger. As sawyer Stephen Thompson put the blade of an 8-foot trimmer up to branches and began to cut, Mackwell explained how clearing out underfuels decreases the fire hazard.

“So if fire comes through it will stay on the ground,” he said. “It’s much easier to fight than if it gets up in the treetops.”

Mackwell said with high temperatures, fuels are likely to dry out much more quickly and increase fire danger. He said higher humidity and low winds helped in quickly stopping a small blaze near Westcliff Drive Monday afternoon.

“If the humidity had been lower and the winds stronger, that thing could have really taken off,” he said.

Protecting homes from wildfires includes work on maintaining a survivable space. Residents can take steps such as removing trees within 10 feet of flue openings, maintaining fuel breaks around structures, and having landscape spaced apart.

Some of these methods are measured on a scene in Hood River County during a wildfire if firefighters have to decide against protecting a home or not.

The structure triage checklist includes directions that if a driveway contains overhanging branches or down-dead fuels lining it that firefighters will automatically write it off.

Other factors on the list that homeowners can be downgraded on include trees overhanging the roof, brush and trees not thinned to within 30 feet of the structure and having decks or stilts not enclosed underneath to the ground.

For more information on protecting homes from wildfire, go to http://www.nifc.gov or http://www.firewise.com

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