Race Against Time: Defensible Space

RENO, NV - How many times have you seen news stories just after a wildfire where one home seems unscathed, with another right near it burned to the ground?

Some would call it an act of fate.

But the fact is the characteristics of the home and the vegetation around it played a role.

”I had an image of a fire coming up from the back, and a fire truck coming up and saying, I'm sorry, this is too dangerous and standing there and watching our house burn,” says homeowner Anthony Czarnik.

Anthony says a couple of months back he had the fire department come and inspect his home's landscaping.

So far they've trimmed the trees so branches are at least six feet from the ground.

Then there were the Juniper bushes.

“Junipers apparently are the fireman's plague. They are trash collectors. They have an oil so they are made to burn. Because it's protected from the wind, an ember can get underneath a juniper plant, and it can sit there for hours and hours and then suddenly burst into flames,” says Anthony.

That's why the entire front of his home has been devoid of junipers.

In the backyard he's created defensible space, but more than is required.

“So the fire engine could actually drive back there if it needed to,” says Anthony.

”The number one priority in evaluating the property, you don't want dried grass, you don't want dried pine needles, dead branches, dead leaves on your home or near your home because those are the types of things embers can ignite,” says Ed Smith with Nevada Cooperative Extension.

“I mean it's toast now,” arborist Dale Carlon tells a homeowner after examining a pine tree on the side of his house

Carlon says in these times of drought he's seeing a disturbing trend here in the Truckee Meadows.

“Lack of water. It's a real epidemic I am seeing there are trees that we are seeing and there are trees that are not getting the water that they should,” says Carlon.

Carlon says many people have forgotten to replace the drip system on trees that start to grown out of the initial planting.

Removal of a tree like this can be expensive,

“It was an enormous amount of work,” says Anthony.

For Anthony, the new landscaping is a several-year process but one he says has already paid off.

“We really needed to act to feel safe,” he says.

The Cooperative Extension's "LIVING WITH FIRE" has come out with a new edition for northern Nevadans, called "Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step In Wildfire Preparedness.”

It gives helpful advice on preparing for wildfire designed specifically for each community.

If you live in Carson City, there's a publication for you.

Storey County, Douglas County, Washoe County, each has its own challenges.

Go to our webchannel kolotv.com, and click on Hot Topics for more information.