Jeff Humphrey

Robbing Future Fires of Fuel

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Friday, January 5, 2024 at 12:18 p.m.

Wildfires can be hard to prevent. That’s why this winter, the Washington Department of Natural Resources is working to reduce the vegetative fuel load that allows flames to spread out of control.

“These projects do indeed slow the spread to the fire down or reduce the fire intensity, allowing our firefighters to make a stand and stop the fire in its tracks,” said Steve Harris, Fire Operations Manager with the DNR.

DNR crews are cutting down or limbing up the timber that can carry flames into the treetops.

“When the fire is in the canopy, it’s beyond what fire resources on the ground can do, and you’re stuck with aircraft. And, that’s very expensive and very hit and miss with the effectiveness of aircraft,” explained Harris.

Crowning trees can also shower nearby neighborhoods with hot fire brands.

“We talk about wildfire, and we talk about a flaming front, but what people don’t understand is, those embers can fly miles, into the city, and onto structures and ignite structures based on an ember shower,” warned Nick Jeffries, Wildland Resource Planner with the Spokane Fire Department.

Prescribed fuel reduction projects also thin out sickly trees, including those growing on several hundred acres of public land administered by the Spokane Parks and Rec Department.

Crews feed debris into a shredder, turning that would-be fire fuel into fertilizer with chips that enrich the soil and help to retain moisture.

“These are important assets for Parks and the Spokane community and the visitors who come into Spokane. So, we want these assets to be here today, tomorrow, and into the future for everyone to enjoy,” detailed Angel Spell, Urban Forester, City of Spokane.

And, this relatively new way of robbing future wildfires of the fuel they need to grow is a bargain for taxpayers.

“It’s nickels and dimes versus dollars and twenty-dollar bills when it comes to cost,” Harris said when comparing the price tag of vegetation management efforts with extinguishing a fire.

The City of Spokane is also ready to help private property owners with free home ignition zones assessments.

For more information, visit the DNR’s Wildfire Ready website.

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