HIAWASSEE, Ga. – It has been a mere 18 months since wildfires threatened Tate City – a small community situated in the northeast portion of Towns County – and the local Firewise Coalition hopes to prepare residents in case wildfires approach again.
Saturday, May 5, was proclaimed Wildfire Preparedness Day by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and the Towns County Firewise Citizens Coalition held an awareness event on Hiawassee Square to inform citizens of potential risk factors.
Michael Courney, a member of Firewise, shared some helpful precautionary tips with FetchYourNews to pass along.
Courney began by displaying an illustrated map and relayed that a good rule of thumb is to keep flammable materials at least 30 feet away from structures. “Dry shrubs can easily ignite, and embers from a wildfire can travel over a mile in distance,” Courney explained. “Not only does ground debris and vegetation pose a risk, but gutters that have turned into gardens because they haven’t been cleaned, and flammable liquids, such as gasoline, stored under decks or in close proximity to structures, pose hazards well.”
According to information provided by Firewise, decades of research have shown that both the house, as well as the landscape adjacent to it, play a critical role in the structure surviving a wildfire. A wildfire can transfer from ignited vegetation or an ignited home through radiation, convection, or embers. Burning pieces of airborne wood or vegetation can be carried more than a mile, causing spot fires, and igniting homes, debris, and other objects. Experiments, models, and post-fire studies reveal that homes ignite due to the condition of the home, and everything that surrounds it, up to 200 feet from the foundation.
In the intermediate zone, which extends to 30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home, trees should be spaced a minimum of 18 feet apart, with the mature tree canopy no closer than 10 feet near the edge of the structure. Trees should be pruned up to six to 10 feet from the ground to prevent a ladder fuel effect where fire can travel from the base to the crown. Vegetation should be cleared from under stationary propane tanks, and lawns should be maintained at a height of no more than four inches. Fire fuel breaks can be created with driveways, sidewalks, patios, and using crushed stone or gravel rather than mulch.
Combustible material should be removed from crawl spaces, and gutters should be cleared of accumulated debris.
In the extended zone, which breaches beyond 30 feet from a structure, heavy accumulation of ground litter and debris should be disposed of, and small conifers growing between mature trees should be removed. Trees growing between 30 to 60 feet away from structures should be spaced at least 12 feet in length between canopy tops.
Courney also suggests preparing a list of important items that homeowners would like to preserve, should an evacuation become necessary. “Once you leave home, firefighters can’t let you return because something was forgotten,” Courney said. “It’s best to think ahead, before the time comes, so that you’re prepared.”
A free home wildfire risk assessment and checklist can be downloaded at http://www.fireadapted.org.
In addition, members of the Towns County Firewise Coalition Commitee offer fire-related home assessments at no charge to residents.
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