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Fire mitigation efforts heat up in Evergreen

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Residents work to clear areas around homes

By Sandy Barnes

"I’m nervous about this tree,” said Evergreen resident Carol DeCrescentis.

 

She was standing beside a large pine tree next to the home on Keystone Drive where she and her husband, Fred, have lived since 2002. 

Doug Saba, fire and life safety educator for Evergreen Fire/Rescue, was with the couple, who had asked for help in preventing a possible wildfire from reaching their home. 

Saba said that while the lower branches had been trimmed as a fire mitigation effort, it would be an option to have the tree removed. 

Trimming back tree limbs hanging over the house is a precautionary measure to prevent a laddering effect in the event of fire in the area, he said.

“Take away ground fuels,” Saba said while looking at tall grass and pine needles lying on the ground.

Ideally, there should between 15 and 35 feet of cleared land around a home, he said.

The lower branches of trees should be pruned 5 to 10 feet above the ground. Dead wood, smaller trees and shrubs that could carry fire into tree crowns also should be removed, said Saba.

Fred DeCrescentis said he is planning to remove a stack of fire wood on his property.

Creating a defensible space around a home is a primary measure that is recommended in the wildfire mitigation plan of the Evergreen Fire Protection District.

Walking around the home, Saba also noticed areas underneath the roof where pine needles could gather and create a fire in the attic. 

“Block off vents around the house to keep embers from flying into attic space,” he said.

Saba also advised keeping the gutters clear of pine needles and other debris.

Several years ago, the couple had replaced their flammable shake roof with cement tiles to reduce the risk of embers from a wildfire landing on it and causing a fire.

“You’ve done a great job,” Saba said while looking at the property around the DeCrescentis home. 

One item that Saba suggested having in the home is a fire extinguisher, which he said should be mounted on a wall next to an exit. 

When firefighters are working on a wildland fire, they triage every house that is in danger, said Saba. After assessing the risks, fire crews save homes that have the best chance of surviving a wildfire.

During the recent Bluebell Fire near Brook Forest, Evergreen firefighters saved a home near the blaze by clearing the area around it. However, when many homes are in danger, there may not be time for fire crews to perform mitigation.

 

Evacuation plan

Saba also educates residents about the “Ready Set Go” plan in the event they have to evacuate their homes. 

“We have a plan,” said Fred. 

He and Carol have collected items they would load into their SUV if they had to leave. In an area in the downstairs of their home are documents and medical records, family photos, clothing and other possessions they are planning to take with them.

However, the couple hasn’t yet done a trial run on packing their vehicle.

“We need to see how long it would take,” said Carol.

There are three levels of evacuation notices the fire district sends to residents whose homes are in the path of wildland fires.

“Get in the car and go” when a level 3 notice is sent out, said Saba.

 

Being prepared

“You experience some kind of potential (disaster) no matter where you are,” said Carol DeCrescentis. 

When they were living in Ohio, there were threats of tornadoes, she remarked. And in Connecticut where she grew up, hurricanes were fairly common, she added.

“We’re very protective of houses here,” said Saba.

To assist residents in learning about evacuation routes, Saba has coordinated an effort to place information fliers in containers along roads in the community.

The fire protection district has information about fire mitigation measures in its Community Wildfire Protection Plan and evacuation routes on its website at www.evergreenfirerescue.

 

 

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.