SEASIDE – Wildfire season is approaching and local fire fighters are concerned that drying weather, fast growing grass and brush and unsuspecting people could be a dangerous mix this spring and summer.

Gearhart Fire Chief Bill Eddy said wildfires aren’t confined to dry hot areas like Central Oregon.

“These fires can happen anywhere,” Eddy said. “They are so unpredictable and they move very quickly. Over the years we’ve seen grass fires in the dunes and brush fires on land and in the forests along the North Coast.”

Captain Joey Daniels at Seaside Fire and Rescue said most of the wildfires his department responds to are human caused.

“We have more unattended burns that get away,” he said. “That’s why we encourage people that have no buffers to keep shrubs and grass away from their homes and to clear a defensible space around the house.”

Daniels said there have been some close calls like a beach fire that raced through tall grass in north Seaside last July and briefly threatened nearby homes.

But Both Daniels and Eddy said their department volunteers are specifically trained to react quickly and effectively to keep life and property safe during the wildfire season. Both departments also have four-wheel drive rigs to help get fire fighters to the scene of a wildfire on the beach or in the forests surrounding cities along the North Coast.

May 6-12 is Wildfire Awareness Week in Oregon and Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Jim Walker is asking homeowners to use this opportunity to make sure their home is protected from wildfire.

In a unified proclamation, governors from Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California have joined to encourage homeowners to begin thinking about the approaching fire season. This year's Wildfire Awareness Week theme asks: Have you done enough to protect your home from wildfire?

“The roof is the most critical part of the house when it comes to wildfire protection,” Walker said. “Embers can collect and ignite on the roof, in gutters, and enter unscreened openings around the house. Although non-combustible roofing material is preferred, regardless of the construction, keep roofs, gutters and eaves clear of all leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris.”

The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, in collaboration with Keep Oregon Green, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon forest protective associations, and federal wildland agencies are urging homeowners to develop defensible space around homes before fire strikes this summer.

To reduce the risk, fire officials suggest removing dead vegetation a minimum of 30 feet around your house. In most cases, trees and healthy plants do not need to be removed. However, trees should be pruned and grass kept short and green to keep fire on the ground and more manageable by fire crews. If you're thinking of landscaping, ask your local nursery or OSU Extension agent about fire resistant plants.

Homeowners should also keep access in mind for large fire trucks. Long driveways should be at least 12 feet wide, have 10 feet of vegetation clearance from the centerline out, and about 14 feet overhead. Large vehicle turnaround areas are critical for your safety as well as firefighter safety.

For more information, visit the websites for Keep Oregon Green, Oregon Department of Forestry, or call your local fire department..

© 2012 Seaside Signal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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