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5/16/2011 10:13:00 AM
Firewise spreads the word on defensible space
PAWUIC built a demonstration Firewise house for this year’s YCCA Home and Garden Show.
Courtesy photo
PAWUIC built a demonstration Firewise house for this year’s YCCA Home and Garden Show.
Courtesy photo

Scott Orr
Special to the Tribune


For the first time in years, the Prescott Area Wildland/Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC) tried a new educational tactic instead of presenting a spring Firewise Expo or town hall to educate the public on the dangers of wildfire: a display at the YCCA Home and Garden Show, held over the weekend at Tim's Toyota Center.

The display, which consisted of a trailer full of educational materials and a mock-up of a house showing various techniques for fireproof construction, attracted some interested visitors, said Bill Fencken, Yavapai Hills Homeowners Board President, but not as many as they had hoped. "These people come to see houses and decorating ideas; they don't come to see fire (protection) unless they are looking for that information."

He said they'd spoken to perhaps 30 to 40 people over the two-day event, which was not a wasted effort. "If we are successful in helping one or two families protect their properties, we've accomplished something good," Fencken said, "but if we got 150 that would be better."

That's because protecting homes is a community effort. If you create defensible space around your home, for example, but your neighbor doesn't, the embers from a fire on his land stand a good chance of spreading with the wind and landing on your home.

Among those people who did stop by were new Yavapai Hills residents Sandy and Bill Lee, who recently moved here from Maine, where wildfires are not a major problem for homeowners.

They had lots of questions for the Firewise volunteers, about everything from home construction techniques to the kinds of vegetation that's safest to have near their home.

"We want to get things a little bit safer," Sandy said.

Wildfire season and the restrictions that come with it are here now, so the Lees are concerned about what they ought to be doing to protect their property.

The most important, cheapest, and easiest thing to do is create defensible space, said Fencken. "At least 30 feet around the house. Not all the way to the dirt, but no ladder fuels, which is the smaller (vegetation) that can catch fire, especially up against the house."

He also recommended trimming back trees and large bushes, because when those ignite, the result can be a fire that advances into the tops of nearby trees, where it spreads rapidly.

Volunteers also explained the benefits of construction material that are fire-resistant. Homebuilders are now starting to incorporate Firewise techniques into their houses and using it as a marketing tool - houses have more value when they are better protected against wildfire.

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