'Thinning' could prevent destructive Spokane fires


by Breanna Roy & KREM.com


Posted on August 20, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 20 at 2:11 PM

SPOKANE – It is difficult to eliminate the potential of a fire starting, but experts in forest health say managing our forests can make a big difference in how that fire behaves.

City of Spokane urban forester Angel Spell and lead arborist Jeff Perry trekked back to where a fire raced up the southwestern side of the South Hill toward homes on High Drive in July. It burned mostly private property, a section that had not been thinned, giving the fire plenty of fuel.

Perry said the dense brush and small trees acted like a ladder, leading the fire up to the canopies of the large, mature trees, resulting in a more-destructive crown fire.

Not far away from the burned section, a 160-acre section of land recently received a fuels reduction grant from the state. Crews cleared out most of the smaller brush, mimicking the results of a ground fire.

Spell and Perry said they would like to see people who own private property do the same thing.

“In an ideal world, the whole stand would be thinned up to the backyards of every house,” Perry said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. But what does happen is because we are treating our land, which is quite a substantial amount here, it helps reduce that potential.”

Technical and financial assistance is available for private property owners through the Spokane County Conservation District’s Firewise program.

“People always have the best intentions about what they’re doing with their property and their trees and their forest,” Spell said. “What I have to recommend, though, is to consult the experts.”