Wildfire season is upon us

Posted 3/24/09

The wildfire season is in full-throttle and looks to be a serious one. With an extreme lack of precipitation from the winter months, Elizabeth Fire …

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Wildfire season is upon us


The wildfire season is in full-throttle and looks to be a serious one. With an extreme lack of precipitation from the winter months, Elizabeth Fire Protection Division Chief T.J. Steck said the 2009 season could one of the worst in recent history. Elbert County residents are currently at a stage-two burn restriction, but discussions have been made by the Fire Chief’s Association to bump that up to a stage three.

“Fire season outlooks are discouraging at this point,” Steck said. “Even the smallest wildland fire could turn into a major event for our community given the low relative humidity and abundant growth.”

Even when the county experiences a day with moisture, overall it does not make a difference, the next dry day the county will be in the same position, Steck said. Under a Stage-two restriction level, no open burning is allowed and the sale and use of fireworks and education rockets are prohibited. The safe use of charcoal and gas grills are allowed and not affected by this ban. Violation of the burn restriction carries penalties for first-time offenses of $110.

Steck said county residents can take preventative measures to help protect their homes.

Create a 50- to 100-foot safety zone around the home, if a resident lives in a heavily wooded area the 100-foot zone is recommended.

In this safety zone residents should rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs and remove them along with any rubbish or other combustible items.

Mow grass frequently and remove tree branches within 15 feet of the ground. Keep roofs and gutters clear, trim branches back 15 feet from chimneys and stovepipes and stack firewood and other combustibles outside of the safety zone and uphill from your home.

Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for two days, and then bury the cold ashes in vegetation-free soil.

Clear a 10-foot area around gas tanks, barbecue grills or other sources of ignition.

Be sure you have enough hose to reach all areas of your safety zone.

Get your neighbors involved and identify strengths such as tractors, ponds, etc.

Identify the weaknesses as well, such as elderly, handicapped and very young children who may not be able to save themselves if endangered.

The most comprehensive plan is to involve the entire neighborhood so that one property does not endanger the others.

Call the electric company and ask it to trim branches away from electrical wires.

Families should have at least two escape routes from their home and have an agreed upon place to meet outside of the threatened area in the event of evacuation.

Evacuation should be immediate, if advised.

Steck said homeowners who take the preventative measures can also contact the fire department for a free in-home inspection, as well as wildfire property evaluations. Residents can also attend a free wildland fire safety class at 7 p.m. on April 29 at the Elizabeth Fire Protection District, 155 West Kiowa Avenue. For more information on emergency-related topics visit www.elizabethfire.com or call 303-646-3800.


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