WASHINGTON COUNTY – With an increase in temperature and windy conditions, spring vegetation is giving way to summer dryness during this turn of the season.
Fire prevention tips
Washington County has a long history of wildfires in the late spring and early summer months, most of which are human-caused and the result of carelessness. With approach of the fire season, Washington County Emergency Services would like to remind all county residents and visitors of the importance of being cautious with fire. As summer weather continues to dry out natural vegetation, the potential for fire will increase.
Being safe with fire is an individual effort that provides benefits for the entire community. Citizens should learn and obey the following fire prevention tips:
- Make sure you can legally burn in your area. Check with local authorities and obtain a permit.
- Check the weather before you light a fire. High winds, high temperatures and low humidity radically intensify fire.
- Choose a safe burning site away from trees or bushes, buildings or other flammable fuels.
- Have means, like water or an extinguisher, to douse your fire quickly.
- Stay with your fire. Don’t leave it unattended.
- Don’t burn garbage, waste, construction debris, plastic, foam, rubber or other offensive substances.
- Don’t throw lighted material, including cigarettes, from vehicles.
- Use fireworks with caution, obey fireworks laws and don’t use illegal fireworks.
- Always extinguish the fire completely before you leave it.
- Never park on, or drive through, dry grass.
- Be careful with the use of heat or spark generating tools or ATVs.
- If you live in a wildland interface area, be prepared for wildfire.
- Provide for defensible space around your home and out buildings.
- Have a wildfire action plan for your family.
- Have your important documents and disaster kits ready to go in an emergency.
- Leave early if a fire threatens your neighborhood.
Widespread wildfire issues
The U.S. Forest Service has long struggled with fighting wildfires across the nation. In a statement before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell highlighted the challenges facing the agency as it continues to respond to increasingly extreme wildfires.
“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” Tidwell said. “The largest issue we now face is how to adapt our management to anticipate climate change impacts and to mitigate their potential effects.”
The Forest Service estimates a total of almost 400 million acres of all vegetated lands are at moderate to high risk from uncharacteristically large wildfires. Working with the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service has involved the entire wildland fire community in developing a long-term National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The strategy has three components: Restoring fire-adapted ecosystems, building fire-adapted human communities and responding appropriately to wildfire.
From fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2011, the Forest Service treated about 27.6 million acres, an area larger than Virginia. The agency focuses treatments on high-priority areas in the Wildland-Urban Interface, areas where human development abuts wildlands.
There are an estimated 70,000 communities in the Wildland-Urban Interface at risk from wildfire, and the Forest Service is working through partnerships to help communities become safer from wildfires, including developing community wildfire protection plans. In addition, the Firewise program helps communities with actions to reduce the potential for homes to be ignited from wildfires. The number of designated Firewise communities rose from 400 in 2008 to more than 700 in 2012.
Most of America’s landscapes are adapted to fire. Wildland fire plays a natural and beneficial role in many forest types. Where suppression is needed to protect homes, property and resources, the Forest Service focuses on deploying the right resources in the right place at the right time. Using improved decision support tools, fire managers are making risk-based assessments to decide when and where to suppress a fire—and when and where to use fire to achieve management goals for long-term ecosystem health and resilience.
Restoring fire-adapted ecosystems often requires treatment or removal of excess fuels, reducing tree densities in uncharacteristically crowded forests and application of fire to promote the growth of native plants and reestablish desired conditions. Fuel treatments change fire behavior and provide more options to engage a fire. This can decrease fire size, intensity, divert fire away from high value resources, and can result in reduced suppression costs.
- Officials urge residents to prepare for upcoming fire season
- Wildland-urban interface firefighting optimized through deliberate training; STGnews Videocast
Submitted by: Washington County Emergency Services and U.S. Forest Service