Getting Out The Word To Be Firewise

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We are fast approaching fire season and weather forecasters are predicting an above normal fire threat for the 2003 season.

The Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters launched a new radio and print campaign this week in an effort to teach people how to better protect their homes from wildfires.

Many people believe that wildfires are started by lightning but the Forest Service says more than 90% of all wildfires are started by people.

That's why the agency wants to urge communities to get "firewise."

"The idea of firewise is that the people are responsible for their property. The homeowners in particular can do things to their property to prevent their homes from burning," says Jim Smalley of Wildland Fire Protection.

The radio ads and print ads aim to tell people just what they need to do to keep their home safe this fire season.

"We're hoping that when communities implement the firewise program, that even if a wildfire occurs, there'll be a 95% probability that it will not inflict the devastation that it would have had the program not been in place," says Jim Hull of the State Foresters Association.

Here's what you need to do to implement the "firewise" program.

* Clean your roof and gutters of all pine needles, leaves and branches and remove tree branches that extend within ten feet of a stove or chimney flue.

* All landscape vegetation should be spaced so that fire can't jump to another structure.

* Dispose of all fireplace ashes and charcoal, only after soaking them in water.

* Store gasoline in an approved safety can, far away from any occupied building.

* All firewood, picnic tables and other combustibles should be stored away from your house.

* Finally, clear the ground around all structures to create a fuel break.

Says Sally Butler, a Firewise volunteer: "We are taking out any of what we call the ladder fuels. We're taking out any dead fuel that's down on the ground. We're taking out low lying branches that could allow fire to climb up into the higher part what's called the crown of the tree."

In 2002, 88,000 fires destroyed nearly 7 million acres of land nationwide . . . 3,000 structures were destoyed and - of those - 1,400 were people's homes.

Weather forecasters say, while the fire threat will be above normal for Northern Nevada this year, it isn't expected to be as bad as last year.

For a complete list of firewise principals, go to our website and click on "links."