Defensible space key to home protection
July 13, 2018
With the chance of thunderstorms increasing in the forecast it won't be enough to be careful of fire.
Forecasters are predicted the chance of dry lightning on Thursday, with it increasingly likely today through this weekend for storms that could set anywhere alight at any time.
On Sunday what started out as a small wildfire claimed a Topaz Lake resident's home.
While the cause of that fire has yet to be determined, it was first reported as a power pole on fire, which knocked out power to neighborhood wells.
That left residents trying to douse it using buckets. It didn't take firefighters long to arrive on scene, but by the time they did there were three different fires burning quickly up the hill toward the lost home.
On Monday, all it took was a spark from an excavator's track to light cheat grass ablaze. Quickly shifting winds pushed the fire down toward Jacks Valley Road north toward Alpine View and back toward the homes along James Canyon Loop.
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Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said a combination of defensible space and riparian areas to the north and east of the fire helped give firefighters the chance they needed to get ahead of the blaze.
"I can't stress enough how important it is to have defensible space around homes," Eisele said. "This contributed to the successful outcome of no structures lost."
When firefighters arrived at the scene of the Jacks Valley fire, they immediately set up near homes to do structure protection.
Unlike Topaz, Canyon Creek Estates had hydrants, but Eisele said the swift moving fire prevented engines from connecting to them. Instead, firefighters filled tenders and used them to supply the engines so they could remain mobile and head off the fire when the wind shifted.
While landscaping was burned as a result of the fire, it did its job protecting homes.
According to livingwithfire's Ed Smith, defensible space is the area between a house and the wildland that has been modified to give firefighters a place to make a stand when defending a house in a wildfire.
According to Smith creating defensible space involves thinning flammable native trees and shrubs, including buck and rabbit brush and desert peach, and planting fire resistant plants around the house.
"Having an effective defensible space is essential to living more safely in high-fire hazard environments," Smith wrote.
However, as the last month has shown, wildfires haven't always been limited to the wildland.
A fire set by a man grinding a fence post in the Gardnerville Ranchos raged across the backyards of several homes there, threatening a half-dozen homes.
The Topaz Fire also occurred inside a neighborhood.
"This fire was well within a subdivision and proves no home is safe without protection," Battalion Chief Scott Fraser said. "East Fork wants to remind every homeowner, regardless of your home's location to have defensible space, clear brush, and trim back trees."