Take advantage of the fire prevention coop

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Tony Rohrwasser Guest Opinion

My opinion is regarding fire safety, of course. If you are not aware yet, the Fire Districts, Associations, USFS and IDL in Boundary County have formed a fire prevention coop in the last year. The idea of this is to work as a team to help share our combined knowledge and resources to send a common message to the residents in Boundary County regarding all aspects of fire safety.

Throughout the year we have different messages to send out, from wildfires to kitchen fires to extension cord fires to many types of fires in the home. The most critical message at this time of year is fire prevention in the wildland urban interface (WUI). This is the area referred to where homes meet the forest. Every year we have more people moving here and wanting to build a home in the “woods.” We all want to enjoy the beauty of North Idaho but at the same time we need to do it right so as not to burn ours or our neighbor’s property and homes.

As you may know we usually spend the majority of the summer and fall in a high fire rating or higher. It is not very often that we see moderate or low ratings during August. In recent months we have trained members of the Boundary County Fire Prevention Coop to do home assessments. Members come out to individual homes and carefully evaluate the house and immediate area around the structure looking for places embers or fire brands may be able to get in and ignite the structure or surrounding fuels. Many have the misconception that in a forest fire the house burns down when the flames rush on past the home. More often than not the house burns from embers or brands smoldering once the flame front has passed by and it is still too hot to enter the area.

Our members come out for no cost and help you to prioritize from the most immediate danger to long term goals for safety. The summer may be coming to a close but our fire season usually goes on through October. Now is a great time to plan for next year, have us come out and help you plan for next year’s fire season.

In a large wildland fire the main purpose of our small departments is to deal with life safety first, secondly to try to prevent homes from burning up, and lastly to try to stop further damage to the environment. In a county like ours we are limited in what we can do to protect the community. We must triage homes based on the ability to save a home, not based on the most expensive house or who we know. Homes with too many challenges may have to be passed by to save others.

This type of shotgun evaluation in the field is hard to do. Pre-planning is the key. The more the homeowner can do to assist us the better chance they have of weathering the storm and saving their homes. Please, if nothing else look into what can be done to make it safer for our Volunteer First Responders who are out there trying to protect their community when they could be at home protecting their families and homes.

Thanks for your time to listen to my opinion, please call up for a home assessment and let us help.

Please call the Idaho Department of Lands at 208-267-5577 and they will connect you with a representative from your local dept. or call your local Fire Chief.

Thanks for listening, As a wise man said, it’s not so much “IF” it’s going to happen. It’s “When” it’s going to happen. Please help us help before it happens.

• • •

Tony Rohrwasser is the Chief of South Boundary Fire Protection District.

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