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Having a defensible space means having a buffer around a home that is cleared of flammable materials.

With 90-degree days in the forecast, wildfire season is just around the corner. 

Our record-breaking snowfall and spring rains mean there will be plenty of fine fuels to burn during hot, dry, windy summer days. 

We encourage residents of the county and even parts of town to think about the “defensible space” around their homes.

When firefighters talk about defensible space, they mean a buffer around a home that is cleared of flammable materials. This is important because it reduces the chance that your home will ignite in the case of a wildfire. It also makes it more likely that firefighters will be able to take action that protects your house if a wildfire is on its way. 

According to wildfire risk experts, you should think about three zones around your house. Zone 1, from 0-5 feet from your home, should be completely cleared of all combustible materials. This means you don’t want to stack your firewood along your house. Also, think about cleaning gutters and removing needles and leaves from the roof: many homes have caught fire due to embers falling onto flammable materials in gutters and roofs. 

Zone 2, from 5-30 feet from your home, should have fire-resistant or green vegetation, well-pruned trees and well-watered lawns or xeriscaping. This isn’t a safe place for stacked firewood or propane tanks either. It’s a good idea to build porches, decks and children’s play equipment out of fire-resistant material if they’re within Zone 2.

Zone 3 extends 30-100 feet from the house. Trees in this zone should be well-spaced and pruned. It’s also a good idea to think about “fuel breaks” such as driveways or lawns in Zone 3 that would slow down an approaching wildfire.

Finally, as we gear up for fire season, we would like to thank the firefighters who are out there every day working to protect people in Walla Walla County.

Rocky Eastman is the Chief of Walla Walla County Fire District #4. He is a WA-Hi graduate who started as a firefighter in 1988, when he joined Fire District 4 as a volunteer. In 1991, he was hired by the City of Walla Walla Fire Department and spent 13 years working as a career firefighter, paramedic, and captain before returning to Walla Walla County’s Fire District 4 in 2004 as Deputy Chief. He was promoted to Chief in 2005. In addition, he serves on the board of the Washington Fire Chiefs Association.

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