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Be prepared for fire eventuality

Posted: May 20, 2012 - 8:00am

They say an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure and we think that is especially true as we find ourselves in the heart of wildfire season.

Home and landowners can take just a few small measures to protect their property from the fast consuming flames common to Alaska in the months after breakup but before summer.

Here are a few quick ideas to help protect your home from the eventuality of an encroaching fire:

* Clear all dead or dry vegetation from the sides of homes and replace with small plants, flowers or gravel.

* Within 15 to 30 feet of a home, remove shrubs beneath trees, prune tree limbs and remove dead vegetation.

* Keep a well-watered lawn trimmed to three inches or less, trees should be healthy and watered often, dispose of flammable materials on property, clear the area under stairs and decks of debris, clean roofs and gutters.

* Keep garden hoses and fire tools like shovels or rakes readily available. Keep storage areas clean and clear of oily rags, newspapers, or other combustibles.

* Have a fire plan -- locate the nearest fire station, test smoke detectors and keep fire extinguisher current. Most importantly clean chimneys and stovepipes regularly.

* Make sure you have an easily accessible water supply on hand for emergency situations.

Local safety officials are urging residents to postpone burning yard debris on their properties due to dry conditions expected to last into June.

We know it is difficult to sit and wait to burn debris that has accumulated on ones property over the winter, especially after our November windstorms, but waiting until officials give the thumbs up could prevent a large wildfire from starting.

When possible, remember that Kenai and Soldotna garbage sites allow slash and other wood materials to be dropped off if you'd rather not take the chance of burning it on your property.

Most wildfires on the Peninsula are started by humans and that means most wildfires are preventable. Winds common this time of year can grab a fire and fling it out of control in just a matter of minutes. In the event a fire does get out of control, remember to call 911 immediately. It is better to quickly admit a fire got out of your control than to fail trying to contain it yourself creating a situation that could grow beyond local responders' capabilities.

Burn permits are required in Kenai, Homer and Seward. Small pile permits are available online at forestry.alaska.gov/burn, or residents can call 260-4262 for more information. For larger projects, forestry officials can inspect and issue a permit on site.

Alaska Division of Forestry suspended on Friday permitted open burning on the Kenai Peninsula after noon each day until further notice due to dry conditions. Burning with a valid permit is allowed between 6 a.m. and noon if all the terms and conditions listed on the permit are followed. Individuals with burning permits issued by their city fire department or fire service area must call their department for authorization to burn.

In short: With just a little forethought, planning and preparedness, we can help prevent wildfires from starting and spreading. Let's start this summer on a positive note, free of wildfires and safe from the spread of them later on.

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