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Getting fire adapted this fall

Ashland Fire and Rescue has a rich history of preparing homeowners for wildfire. Boasting 36 Firewise Communities, creating financial assistance opportunities for fuels reduction, and working with motivated residents to make being Ashland’s Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) Coordinator position an amazing job. That’s what attracted me to this position — I am Katie Gibble, Ashland Fire and Rescue’s new FAC Coordinator.

A little about myself. I have a diverse history preparing communities for wildfire. In Idaho, I worked for the City of Boise’s Wildfire Mitigation Team, and as a geoscience graduate student at Boise State University. There I helped residents to identify wildfire risks around their homes, and researched post-fire erosion potential threatening the city of Boise. In Utah I worked for the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands, managing grants to reduce wildfire fuels on city and public lands in the Salt Lake area. I am eager to transfer my knowledge to the City of Ashland, and to get to know the citizens that are working to make this community resilient to wildfire.

With the 2019 wildfire season coming to an end, you will likely see small columns of smoke rising out of the Ashland Watershed as Ashland Forest Resiliency (AFR) begins burning piles to reduce the wildfire fuels present in our forest. This is work that can only be accomplished in the fall or spring, when the amount of moisture in the forest and the lower temperatures make it safe to burn close to town.

Similarly, fall is the perfect time for you as a homeowner to work on wildfire risk reduction projects around your home that you may not have been able to conduct during the summer months due to equipment restrictions or the hot summer sun. In the few weeks that I have been in Ashland performing home assessments, here are three recurring items I see that you can address around your home:

Cut back tree “volunteers” that have started growing on your property in the past couple of years. Trees that have been planted naturally are easiest to remove when small. As they grow, they will become ladder fuels, and will allow wildfire to spread from the ground surface into the canopies of mature trees on your property.

Remove tree limbs that hang over your roof or reach under eaves. Branches that hang over your roof or touch your roofline can be the pathway for wildfire to carry from the surrounding vegetation onto your home.

Cutting back overhanging branches will also double to reduce potential damage to your roof in the winter due to heavy snowfall weighing down overhanging limbs.

And while you’re on your ladder, check the vents and soffits that ventilate your attic. In a wildfire event, embers will have no problem entering your attic through larger diameter screens and vents. Make sure that you have at least 1/8th inch screens protecting any entry into your attic to prevent ember ignitions inside your home, where there are plenty of items to ignite.

As I visit homes to perform wildfire home risk assessments, you may see me in the Ashland Fire & Rescue vehicle that is labeled on the back with Ask Me About Firewise! Feel free to wave me down to say hello or, better yet, sign up for a wildfire home risk assessment. I look forward to connecting with you.

Katie Gibble is the Ashland Fire and Rescue Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator. Questions about preparing your home for wildfire should be directed to 541 552 2231

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