Fire officials offer tips for homeowners

Being FireWise key to safety in homes

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2001

With fires wreaking havoc in nearby woods, now may be the perfect time to fire-proof surrounding areas, just in case.

Kenai Fire Department Capt. James Dye said having 30 feet of defensible space around homes is a great place to start.

Defensible space includes removing leaves, branches and debris around the home.

He added that ridding the area of dead trees, such as beetle-killed spruce, also is important.

When thinking of landscaping close to structures, Dye said, using decorative rock instead of cedar chips would be best.

Jan Henry, coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, said that planting and maintaining grass within the defensible space is helpful.

"To plant grass and keep it trimmed presents an excellent barrier," Henry said.

Henry said everybody should keep certain items on hand just in case.

"Everybody should have a fire extinguisher in the house or the garage," he said.

Other tips he offered was to move firewood away from the home and keep roof gutters clean.

Henry added that the best thing to do is to contact the state Division of Forestry in Soldotna or area fire stations for a FireWise packet with loads of information about how to prepare one's home to be fire safe.

Tips to be fire-ready from the FireWise packet include:

n Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from all structures, and clear away flammable vegetation within 10 feet from woodpiles.

n Locate butane and propane tanks at least 30 feet from any structure and surround them with 10 feet of clearance.

n Remove all stacks of construction materials, pine needles, leaves and other debris from yards.

n Make sure native trees and shrubs are spaced at least 10 feet apart.

n For trees taller that 18 feet, prune lower branches within six feet of the ground.

For more information about how to protect your home, or for questions on prevention, call the Office of Emergency Management at 262-4910 or check out the borough's World Wide Web page at http://www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency/.

The FireWise Web site is at http://www.firewise.org.

It also is important to note that there is currently a Kenai Peninsula-wide burn ban due to extremely dry fuel conditions. The ban will be in effect until adequate moisture is received throughout the entire vicinity affected by the closure.

Kenai Fire Chief Scott Walden said that persons who burn while a burn ban is implemented could face serious fines and charges.

For those who burn during high hazard times, police will issue citations. In the case of a fire getting out of control, the person who set the fire would face criminal negligence charges.

The fines for violation range from $50 to $500, depending on the violation of the municipal code. For out-of-control fires, the responsible party would have to pay restitution and the cost to respond and extinguish the blaze.

"Which can amount to thousands of dollars," Walden said. "It is a lot less to prevent them than to put them out."

Walden said fire officials appreciate the cooperation of residents during recent burn bans.

"If people use common sense, we probably won't see a lot of problems."



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