Local communities work to better protect their homes and families against wildfires
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.- Living out in the beautiful rural areas of Washington is a dream for many, but it can also put your home at high risk for being caught in a wild fire.
A growing national program known as firewise communities is beginning to catch on right here in Yakima County, offering those living in areas prone to forest fires a chance to take precautions before a fire sparks, protecting both themselves and their homes.
The gated-community of North Fork Tampico sits nestled in beautiful pine-covered mountains, but as we head into fire season, those lush green trees also serve as fire fuel, allowing fires to spread quickly.
"Wind can change within a second so you just don't know and if a fire department takes so long to get out to your property if you're up here in the hills like we are it's just good for the neighbors to keep their property safe,” said Nicole Parpart, Fire Safety Specialist for the Yakima County Fire Marshal.
That's why Curtis House and his neighbor decided to make their properties firewise, acting as one of seven communities in Yakima County participating in the program.
"I think what's surprising to me is more people don't want to participate. More people don't want to be involved,” said House.
But for House the decision was easy.
"It boils right down to I want to save my life, the home I can rebuild, but I can't if I die," said House.
But even House's home will be able to put up a good fight against a fire it's made of fireproof cement siding, has a metal roof, and a large defensible space cleared out around the perimeter to slow down a forest fire as it approaches.
"We're definitely a lot safer than we were," said House.
In addition to all that, House has installed two hydrants on his property connecting to an artesian well to provide water for fire trucks.
Another unique quality about the North Fork Tampico community is a Knox Box at the entrance that allows local firefighters access into the community in case of a fire both here or in the surrounding area as well as access to their hydrant to get water for their trucks.
House's neighbor has done his part in being firewise too, installing metal mesh around the awning and base of his home to catch any sparks and putting in a metal roof.
And such efforts offer benefits to home owners.
“Insurances are starting to look at firewise programs and nationally certified communities and working with them to get discounts,” said Parpart.
People in firewise communities can also apply for grant money to further their efforts.
"It's a win, win deal. It really is," said House.
If you’re interested in learning more about firewise communities or working to form your own firewise community, you can find all the information on how to do so here.