Defensible Space Helped Save Homes

SPOKANE — It’s amazing more homes weren’t lost in the Valley View Fire, however firefighters say their job was made easier by many property owners who had taken the time to carve out a defensible space.

Joe Davis’ dream home at the Broadmoor Estates was within reach of the wildfire last week and fire crews sat, hoses ready, waiting for the flames to get within striking distance of his home.

However the fire was stopped in its tracks because when Davis’ home was built he had cut down all the trees and brush immediately below his property and the blaze was essentially starved to death.

It’s easy to see the benefit of defensible space with one look at Davis’ home and the surrounding properties. Next to Davis’ home the fire did manage to climb into the treetops and begin crowning, and crews responded by cutting down the pines before the fire brands they created could ignite the home.

Ideally those trees would have been limbed up in a precautionary measure to deny the fire that fuel.

“We want to reduce what we call ladder fuels, which are fuels which help carry fire up into tree canopy, the lower limbs, the trees, the brush, the smaller trees underneath are all ladder fuels, which if we can remove those ladder fuels, keep fire on the ground, we have a fighting chance of keeping fire from getting out of hand,” Steve Harris with the Department of Natural Resources said.

Fire burns 17 times quicker when its moving uphill. Ron and Anne Norman’s home sat at the top of a ridge and its likely radiant heat rising up the slope ignited their home well before the flames got there.

Defensible space involves removing flammable material from around your home like stacks of firewood and limbing up trees in your yard but it also means having enough room in your driveway for a fire truck to turn around.

The preparations you make in carving out defensible space around your home could determine whether or not the fire department even tries to save your home.