Little Spokane River Estates Firewise USA Coordinator
The objective of this article is to provide a brief background of the Little Spokane River Estates (LSRE) Firewise USA program and to emphasize the importance of wildfire prevention measures to protect homes, property, and riparian areas along the Little Spokane River. Because wildfires do not respect property boundaries it is in everyone’s best interest to take prudent action to help reduce the risk of wildfire. To set the stage, LSRE became a designated Firewise USA Community in 2019.
Firewise USA membership requires that residents of the Community actively work to reduce the risk of wildfire damage to homes and surrounding properties. As part of our Firewise USA outreach effort, we are communicating with property owners along the Little Spokane River to encourage undertaking activities that can help reduce the spread and damage caused by wildfire. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported, as of August 2021, over 630 wildfires in Washington State, adding that 466 of these occurred in Eastern Washington. More than 300,000 acres burned statewide in 2021. A variety of prevention measures can help provide protection against a wildfire’s ability to spread rapidly, which reduces the risk of disastrous damage to homes and property.
LSRE’s community ownership is adjacent to the Little Spokane River and a wildfire occurring along or near this scenic river can cause significant long-term damage to both riparian areas and river ecology. The national Firewise USA® recognition program provides a collaborative framework to help neighbors in a geographic area get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and property.
In 2019, the WA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducted a “Wildfire Risk Assessment” for the LSRE Community in conjunction with our Firewise USA Community Designation application. This assessment provided LSRE’s Board of Directors with several recommendations designed to reduce the spread of a wildfire and associated residential damage. Highest wildfire risk areas identified by the assessment were generally associated with dense (overcrowded) Ponderosa Pine patches in the understory of larger trees, called “ladder fuels”, that are quite common in this region’s woodland setting.
Ladder fuels facilitate wildfire spread into crowns of larger trees. Thinning-out these ladder fuel areas, especially on drier southwest slopes, when combined with pruning-up the larger trees reduces both the spread and intensity of a wildfire. Working in conjunction with the DNR, LSRE has now completed this type of work on 16 of our resident’s properties, resulting in a significant reduction in the risk of rapid wildfire spread in these locations. We continuously work with residents to identify and remedy high risk of spread concerns as well as other potentially hazardous conditions such as pine needle and woody debris removal, and vegetation management around homes.
Property owners neighboring LSRE, and those along the Little Spokane River have wildfire fuel conditions like ours. As part of our Firewise USA outreach to increase a general awareness of wildfire risks and the potential for home and property damage, we would be happy to share what we have learned about the activities that we have employed to create a safer LSRE community. We are focused on communicating with property owners located near LSRE, and along the Little Spokane River to encourage implementation of similar practices to help reduce the rapid spread and resulting damage arising from a possible wildfire.
As a community-based program, we encourage residents along the Little Spokane River, as well as our neighboring property owners, to plan for and participate in events throughout the year that can help reduce the risk of rapid wildfire spread. Examples include spring pine needle and woody debris cleanups, thinning dense pine understories, pruning dead branches from larger trees, requesting DNR’s Free Fire Safety Checkup and maintaining wildfire safe zones around homes.
Additional information about the National Firewise USA Program and more detail about LSRE’s program can be obtained at NFPA – Firewise USA® and by contacting John Olson, LSRE Firewise USA Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org