Cheryl-KingIt’s that time of the year when the weather is changing and soon, it will be hot and dry.

Weeds and other foliage, better known as fuel, will be dried out and are just waiting for a fire to erupt that may kill people and/or destroy the precious homes people cherish.

There are preventive measures residents can do to help lessen the chances of their homes burning to the ground.

A prime example of residents not preparing for fire season is a fire that occurred last year in Mohave County. The call went out from Fire Dispatch about a structure fire and fighters immediately responded.

When the firefighters arrived on scene, they didn’t comprehend the complexity and magnitude of what they were facing or what they would experience. They dragged out their hoses and began extinguishing the blaze. However unforeseen circumstances occurred when the fire spread to the six-foot-tall weeds and brush that hadn’t been cleared away from around the home.

As the fire spread, the brush in the yard erupted in flames and spread to vehicles and trailers hidden by the tall weeds. The conclusion of the fire was the home, every structure, the trailers and all of the vehicles were destroyed by the fire.

The above incident could have been prevented or at least lessened if resident had made a “defensible-space clearance” and utilized “fire landscaping” around their home and the other structures.

The primary goal for a defensible-space clearance and fire landscaping is for fuel reduction — limiting the amount of flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the structures.

If there is an adequate amount of space cleared of vegetation from around the home or structure, then the firefighters will be able to respond to the incident and have time to extinguish the fire before it might spread.

Proper clearance of at least 30 feet from any structure dramatically increases the chance of a home surviving if a fire occurs near it. This defensible-space clearance also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a fire.

A good rule of thumb is the cleared area that encircles a structure, all the additions, such as wooden decks, fences, and boardwalks, should be cleared at least 30 feet on all sides. However, the 30-foot figure comes from the very minimum distance, on flat ground, that a structure can be separated from the radiant heat of large flames without igniting.

There are many suggestions on how to keep homes and structures from catching fire and they are called defensible zones.  Below are just some fire safety precautions residents should adhere to:

Create a “fire-free” area using non-flammable landscaping materials and/or high-moisture-content annuals and perennials within five feet of the home or structure;

Use landscaping methods developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilize water-conserving techniques such as the use of drought-tolerant plants, cacti, mulch, and have efficient irrigation available;

Plants should be carefully spaced and be of the low-growing variety and be free of types that contain resins, oils and waxes that burn easily;

Space trees that produces fruit such as cones – mostly evergreens (conifer trees) 30 feet between crowns and trim back all trees that overhang the house;

Trees should be at least 10 feet away from the home and other structures;

Remove dead vegetation from under decks and within 30 feet of the house;

Remove dead or dry leaves. pine needles and other from the roof and rain gutters;

Don’t have the stack of chopped wood for the fireplace near the home and definitely do not have it stacked on the porch;

Don’t pile bags of trash near any structure and utilize garbage cans or other containers instead of just letting them lie on the ground;

Remove heavy accumulation of woody debris, such as tree and brush clippings that are laying around the property;

Reduce the mass of tall trees so the canopies are not touching each other;

Remove smaller conifers that are growing between taller trees;

Create “fuel breaks,” like driveways and gravel walkways and dirt pathways; and

Prune the trees on the property to the height of a maximum of six to 10 feet from the ground.

If residents would like to have firefighters to stop by their property to inspect the defensible-space clearance, fire landscaping and/or for an overall fire safety inspection, contract the respective fire district or fire department in their area. The numbers are:

  • Bullhead City Fire District at (928) 758-3925;
  • Desert Hills Fire District at (928) 764-3333;
  • Fort Mohave Mesa Fire District at (928) 768-9181;
  • Golden Shores Volunteer Fire District at (928) 768-4546;
  • Golden Valley Fire District at (928) 565-3497;
  • Kingman Fire Department at (928) 753-2891;
  • Lake Havasu City Fire Department at (928) 453-3313;
  • Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District at (928) 767-3300;
  • Mohave Valley Fire District at (928) 768-9113;
  • Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District at (928) 757-3151;
  • Oatman Fire District at (928) 768-2102;
  • Pine Lake Fire District at (928) 757-3570;
  • Pinion Pines Fire District at (928) 757-1207; and
  • Yucca Fire Volunteer District at (928) 766-2002.

Residents should practice fire-safety consciousness and  protect their homes with a defensible-space clearance.

Fire officials say fire season is rapidly approaching – are you prepared?

(Note: Butch Meriwether serves as the public information officer for the Golden Valley and Mohave Valley Fire Districts)