SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — Wildfires don’t discriminate; whether you live in a rural area or an urban area, a wildfire can happen. State and local fire officials and wildland experts want everyone to know how to best protect their properties from wildfires.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Spokane County hosted a ceremony Wednesday to bring in the third year of the 'Wildfire Ready Neighbors' program. The statewide initiative recommends how property owners can lower the impact of wildfires on their land.
While wildfires can’t be stopped, officials said there are ways to reduce the potential impact on property. This includes creating defensible spaces, cleaning pine needles out of gutters and keeping lawns watered.
Spokane County Fire District 3 Chief Cody Rohrbach said people living in this county are at higher risk when compared to the rest of the state.
"The greater Spokane community has been identified as the fourth most at-risk community in the state of Washington," Rohrbach said. "Particular concerns around the southwest Spokane County, where we’re at today, and north Spokane county, near the Deer Park area given the fuels in the area, terrain, weather patterns.”
DNR is also helping with the groundwork to make Spokane County safer against wildfires. Last month, the DNR awarded three Spokane agencies with wildfire defense grant funds.
Over the next two to three years, wildland resource planner Nick Jeffries said that money will be used to thin out at least 1,000 acres of urban forest.
“By thinning out the trees, not only do we give them good forest health, we reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire," Jeffries said. "Again, we’re not alleviating the ability for the fire to burn, we’re reducing the risk.”
Jeffries said everyone should ask how well can their property withstand a wildfire; this isn’t just a rural concern.
“If you have a wood shake roof, cedar shake roof, needles in your gutter, you are just as much at risk in an urban forest as you are in a wildland forest,” Jeffries shared.
The 'Wildfire Ready Neighbor' program offers free land risk assessments for anyone who may be concerned about the health of their property against a wildfire.
According to the DNR, more than 2,000 requests have been made for in-person home visits or forest health consultations.
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