Preparedness Corner
July 2003
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

I would like to thank my neighbors who have made reference to and thanked me for the Preparedness Column in the recent months.  It is nice to know that the message is effective and reaching you.  Again, thank you.  And if you read the special edition, I hope you practiced.

Now, regarding the season upon us.  I have seen notices posted in Arizona (Hi Mom) and in California recommending a 300-foot defensible space.  Use at least this much if you are on a slope of 10 degrees or more.  As you are well aware the fire conditions are nasty.  This is due in from a lack of long slow rain that gets deep into the earth to nourish the brush and trees.  The rain we have received is just enough to grow a nice crop of grasses.  Now it is dead along with last year’s growth.  Nice hot flashy fuel that burns like gasoline.  True, a 10’ long fire front of grass burns as hot as a gallon of gas.  Though in a normal rain fall season a 30’ clearance is recommended on level ground without a canopy of trees, 100 to 300 is a lot better to keep the radiant and convective heat around your buildings down to a minimum.  Oh, you are going to take some heat, but if you follow all the precautions from my previous columns, you stand a better chance of coming home to a place you can still reside.

This does not mean moonscape.  Remembering that fire can burn three times through the same forest (duff and surface fuels, brush, crown timber) separate the fuels.  Don’t allow them to act as a ladder to the next higher fuel.  Make islands of trees or brush with enough separation distance so that if one island lights off, its neighbor doesn’t.  Take into account that a wind will push the flames further and hotter.  And there will be wind.  If not brought by the weather, the fire will create it.  Twenty to sixty miles per hour.  Stick your head out the window on the way to Wally World if you have forgotten what sixty miles per hour feels like.  Of course a safer way would be to hitch a ride from your friendly biker cruising down the highway.  Okay, maybe the car would be safer.

So how much acreage are you willing to lose.  Lets try a test.  How far can you see into your forest? Do you as well as the animals have difficulty walking into your forest? If you can’t walk around your buildings and the immediate forest freely, neither can the Firefighters trying to save your house.  But the fire can.  In fact, the smoke eaters will probably write off your home and move to one they can save.  No firefighter I know would jeopardize themselves or their crew to save a home that puts them in dire trouble when the fire and heat blasts through the brush like a train.  Look at this photo.  Get real close to the screen.  If this is the view from your window, you are going to lose your home.  (Click Here to see photo.  Use your browser's BACK button to return.)

New subjects.  Went to two fires yesterday.  How ironic.  Both were caused by human error.  The first home loss was because a bare light bulb was used in a bedroom closet with clothing within heating distance of the bulb.  Left the light on too long, oops, no more home.  The second was even more careless.  A nice married couple, one of them smoked but was banished to the garage for the nasty habit.  We found numerous butts in the debris between all the stored boxes.  The spouse wore a very sheepish look when the cause was discovered.  The dog was the hero here.  This was an early morning fire and if it weren’t for the pooch’s barking the fire would have probably been called in by a neighbor.  The fire having now burned through the roof.  Fatalities would have been for sure in this case.

Lastly, I hate bugs.  I use bug bombs.  But unlike a recent event in another part of town, I follow the directions on the can.  Using too many bombs produce an explosive mist.  The result verifies their name, bug “bomb”.  Explosion followed by fire with the home lifted from its foundation.

In closing this month, please remember that defensible space is not an underarm deodorant slogan, make islands so you can visit the islands, and only bomb the bugs.

See you all soon,

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background