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  • Jon Riley

The Small Stuff

No matter how well mitigated your home is for wildfire, no one is living in a concrete bunker surrounded by 100ft of gravel; at least not the homes we've visited over the last five years. There is always some degree of ignition potential. We often share that our homes exist on a spectrum of risk. Moving the needle toward "lower risk" takes vegetation management, installation of non-combustible surfaces and structure improvements. Keeping the needle in place takes maintenance. The most common finding we uncover during a home assessment is overlooked debris such as leaves in the gutters, accumulations of pine needles beneath the deck, and piles of dry leaves driven into hiding by the wind. While small, and often unnoticeable, these dry fuels present a big risk to your property.

Embers or "fire brands" are responsible for over 80% of home ignitions during a wildfire. Unlike the flaming front we focus on while observing a fire, embers are lofting through the air and landing in receptive fuel beds like last year's leaf debris tucked behind the wood pile. Ignition takes place well ahead of the fire front as a small flicker. Think of it like building a camp fire, it begins with a little news paper, some kindling and a single match. Fire will take every opportunity to grow larger, to the fire wood, to the log, until we can no longer stand within 10ft of our now raging bonfire. Ember ignition, and fuel continuity behave the same way: a small fire starts and spreads to nearby combustibles. Fences, sheds, patio furniture, the cardboard pile, etc. can contribute to fire growth, and eventually lead fire on a path to the home.

A big part of addressing wildfire risk comes down to maintenance, the small stuff. Make some time to inspect and clean up areas of your property that are off your radar so to speak. An annual debris clean up doesn't cost anything but time, and could be the deciding factor if an ember ignition takes place on your property during a wildfire.

Chelan County Fire District #1 has the tool for the job this summer: free lawn and leaf bags! Bags can be picked up at our down town station any time M-F, 9:00 - 5:00. Our bags have a custom print with a few good starter places to check for fine dry material. Our partner Stemilt Organic Recyclers will accept filled bags for free at their new compost facility. We are grateful for funding from WAFAC and DNR that helped us acquire custom leaf bags. For more information on our leaf bags, visit:

You can also check out a couple quick videos from last year's wildfire preparedness month a little further down in our blog pages, or by clicking here.

Stay safe this summer!


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