Fire season is around the corner, and we can help you prepare…

fire season

This is one of many homes lost in recent years where the forest meets our living spaces.

Last fire season was epic, to say the least. More than 300 fires burned 50,000-plus acres in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Over 27,000 firefighters battled these blazes. Such numbers make 2015’s fire season the worst since 1926. And we were one windstorm away from a conflagration that would have rivaled 1910’s Big Burn.

If you live outside of Sandpoint city limits, you’re likely surrounded by trees. Most of us live here because we love the forest; we enjoy looking out our window onto a viewscape of cedar, hemlock, pine and fir. North Idaho offers this in spades. However, come fire season, forests become fuel, and it’s scary living inside the tinderbox. So, beyond making a stump farm of one’s acreage, what’s a forest-bound resident to do?

fire season

A healthy forest makes for a healthy burn. A healthy burn will likely leave your home safe.

Fuels reduction is the key. Trees must be thinned, concentrating on increasing space between canopies. Down below, ladder fuels (vegetation that allows a fire to climb from the forest floor to the canopy) must be reduced, including branches, brush and young trees. Surface fuels (dead and downed timber and limbs) should be removed as well as they can harbor and build heat during a fire. As an additional safety measure, residents can clear a swath of trees through the forest 5 to 15 feet wide that acts as a fuels break. This gives firefighters an advantage when trying to save homes. Basically, the idea is to manage fuels so that when a fire does come, it acts as a healthy ground fire that cleans up the forest while sparing large trees and structures.

At Sand Creek Tree Service, we’re not just arborists; we’re also wildland firefighters. We know how to keep forests healthy and safe, and we’d rather do that than battle flames at anyone’s doorstep.

In 2006, Tyler’s job on a fire in Alaska was to quickly assess homes that were in the path of the blaze. Defensible homes received a single pink flag on the driveway, alerting firefighters that the effort of saving the structures was worth it. Meanwhile, homes with no fuels reduction received three flags, telling firefighters that trying to save the buildings was too dangerous. Homes were lost that day due to thick fuels.

The lesson is to make sure your home is defensible. And not just your home, but access to your home as well. If you have a long driveway with thick trees, reduce fuels on each side of the road 5 to 20 feet back depending on the fuel types. That means thinning some trees, removing saplings, and limbing up larger trees. Another thing to consider is whether there is enough room to get a fire engine down your driveway and turned around.

Of course, we can’t predict whether the coming fire season will rival the last, but it never hurts to be prepared. Even if the landscape doesn’t ignite this year, it will at some point. Such is the nature of a densely forested environment.
Sand Creek Tree Service can help with all fuels reduction work. We know what a defensible home looks like; and sadly, we’re familiar with properties that don’t stand a chance. Call us today for an assessment of your property.
Also, to stay apprised of fire potential predictions for our region, visit the
National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook page for updates through the summer.