Defensible Space in Wildfire-Prone Areas Can Save Lives — So Why Isn’t it the Norm? by Char Miller

Here’s one by Char Miller..Below is an excerpt.

Those living in the subdivisions locked within Arizona’s flammable chaparral shrublands are not alone in having been slow to make their homes more defensible. To get at why this might be so, the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station conducted a careful survey of the fire prevention attitudes and actions of private landowners in the Cascades and Blue Mountains of Oregon.

The impetus for this survey is smartly laid out: “Because fire as a natural process operates across ownership boundaries, the Forest Service is taking an all-lands approach to forest management, and is making an effort to cooperate with other landowners across landscapes,” notes Susan Charnley, an environmental anthropologist working for the research station. “There’s very little information about how family forest owners manage their land for fire. We need to learn about how they’re managing their land for the same risks we face as an agency, to see what we might do differently to better address those risks.”

What Charnley and her colleague Paige Fischer discovered is that those whose properties abutted national forest lands and who perceived that there was a clear fire risk in the high hazardous fuel loads on these public lands, tended to be more proactive about making their properties less fire prone. They were also a lot more likely to act if their primary residence was on these forested acres than if theirs was a second home — eight times more likely, in fact.

This a key finding, as vacation homes make up a goodly number of the residences being slotted into fire zones of all kinds, exacerbating firefighters’ abilities to protect lives and property. “Nationwide, the trend has been toward a booming number of nonindustrial private owners, with a shrinking average parcel size,” observes John Bliss, the Starker Chair in Private and Family Forestry at Oregon State University. “Million-dollar homes are being built in the middle of harvested timberland without firebreaks. Many new owners who built their dream cabins live in an urban area and have no background in forest management, let alone wildfire prevention or fireproofing. When wildfires come through, these houses are sources of ignition and catastrophic loss.”

Just so folks remember that all forces of government need to be working together in the fuels reduction effort.. here’s another note from our county that shut down its slash disposal site.

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