Many people believe that wildfires are started primarily by lightning, but the Forest Service says more than 90 percent of all wildfires are started by people. That's why the agency wants to urge communities to get "fire-wise."
"The idea of 'fire-wise' is that the people are responsible for their property," says Jim Smalley of Wildland Fire Protection. "The homeowners in particular can do things to their property to prevent their homes from burning."
State Foresters Association member Jim Hull says new radio and print advertisements 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 percent probability that it will not inflict the devastation that it would have had the program not been in place," he says.
Here's what you need to do to be "fire-wise." 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.
"We are taking out any of what we call the ladder fuels," says Firewise volunteer Sally Butler. "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 seven million acres of land nationwide. Three-thousand structures were destoyed. 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.
Click here to visit the Firewise Web site.
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