'Tis the season -- for wildfires: Division of Forestry, Borough to hold fire preparedness class

Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This summer has had no shortage of hot and dry days, and while this weather is good for recreational opportunities, it poses a severe risk, should a wildfire ignite.

As such, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Alaska Division of Forestry are teaming up to help people prepare for the worst.

"Education is the goal," said Sharon Roesch, a fire prevention officer with Forestry, in regard to the preparedness meeting that will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, Mile 23.5 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

"There will be information on fire behavior and how it spreads," Roesch said.

She explained this will be key concepts for residents to understand because while all fires share some similarities, such as needing fuel, heat and oxygen to burn, other factors, such as what the particular fuel is, the topography and the weather, often can dramatically effect the fire and how it grows, moves and is ultimately suppressed.

"We'll also identify components in the home-ignition zone," Roesch said.

Consideration must be given to the different types of fires, such as ground fires that burn through the duff, surface fires that burn grasses and shrubs, crowning fires that burn in the tops of trees, and spotting, which is when embers are blown ahead of a main fire. Once these concepts are understood, actions can be taken by homeowners to remove or reduce materials that would enable a blaze and ignite a structure.

"Once threatened by wildfire, if you haven't prepared in advance, there's not a lot you can do with only a little bit of time, so you want to reduce flammable materials to reduce ignition," Roesch said.

Aspects of how to create a defensible safe zone will be covered during them meeting, she said. These include, just to name a few, thinning trees and brush cover, pruning branches above the ground, having fire breaks like grass lawns and gardens, and removing slash, leaves and other dry litter from around the yard.

"And, you can't do it just once and think it's done forever. Plants grow and things change, so it has to be done annually," Roesch said, and cited this is the reason even those who are familiar with the FireWise principle should attend the meeting as a refresher.

"The goal is for people to be able to review their own property to identify hazards, but the ultimate goal is for structures to survive a wildlife without suppression resources. And if people are prepared, their structures can survive without firefighters on the scene," she said.

The preparedness presentation is free, and a light supper will be provided. Those interested in attending are asked to R.S.V.P. with Glenda Landua at the borough Office of Emergency Management. She can be reached by e-mail at glandua@borough.kenai.ak.us or by calling 262-2098.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.

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