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Protect yourself and property this wildfire season

Published on Feb 2, 2021

The first fire weather watch of the 2021 has been issued. And it won’t be the last.

With colder temperatures expected this winter and strong winds from the north, along with an overgrowth of vegetation from the past two summers, Polk County residents face the threat of another busy wildfire season.

There are several things that you can do to help make your home and property safer from the threat of wildfires, which include:

  • Clean roofs and gutters often of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch fire embers;
  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration;
  • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8-inch metal mesh screening for porches and windows;
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8-inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers;
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows;
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating;
  • Move flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn;
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.  

Once the structure itself is made fire safe, then the extended landscape of the property should be addressed. This ranges from five feet from the structure to 30 feet extended out in all directions.

Begin by clearing vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks. Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks. Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of 4 inches.

Remove vegetation under trees so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns and prune them up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground. For shorter trees, do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.

If you reside in the more rural parts of the county and your property extends beyond 30 feet from any structure, then there are several more safety precautions that should be taken. Those include:

  • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris
  • Remove dead plant and tree material, along with smaller trees growing between mature trees
  • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area
  • Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops, and trees that are 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops

Finally, in all cases the address of the structure should be properly displayed to assist fire and EMS crews if called to your property in an emergency.