Gerald Doane: Wildfire prevention on my side of the roadway
Gerald G. Doane
I live in a community where the risk of wildfire is very high. The consequences of these risks are almost prohibitive fire insurance rates; high utility costs; static home values; costs to maintain my property in a preventive condition; and, the likelihood of adding pollutants from wildfires into the atmosphere.
It takes an all-hands-on-deck approach with everybody pulling in the same direction to lower the wildfire risk in a community. Private property interests, utility interests, and above all, the public interest must come together and share in the effort that will make a community reasonably wildfire safe.
I cannot tell others how to lower these risks. All I can do is lead by example and explain what I have done and will continue to do to lower the wildfire risk to my property, my home, and my community.
My wildfire prevention focus today is on the roadway that is in front of my property. Why the roadway? Because that roadway, center line to the right-of-way boundary on my side carries multiple, consequential wildfire risks. What are those risks?
Vehicles that travel at 25, 35 mph and sometimes even greater speeds along the roadway in front of my property are a wildfire risk. How so? They can crash, they can catch on fire, and they contain fuel that burns, even explodes under the right conditions. Vehicles are both an ignition source and a fuel source that can be the beginnings of a wildfire.
The overhead utility system located on my side of the road right-of-way and directly in front of my property is a wildfire risk. Overhead high voltage (5K to 12K) and low voltage (110 to 220) lines (all voltage) and overhead telephone and cable lines (all signal) located on the same overhead utility system consisting of poles, wires (including service wires to customers,) switches, and transformers are an ignition source for the beginnings of a wildfire.
Vegetation, mostly trees, present a threat to overhead utility systems. High winds can take down overhead utility lines, even an entire overhead system when trees and large limbs are blown into the system. Dead or dying trees and large limbs (so-called widow-makers) are also a threat even without high winds because they can fall of their own weight into and onto a utility system.
Vegetation is also fire fuel. Fire can ladder from its origins on or near the road right-of way onto my property which can then ignite other fuels, like my house, my vehicles, other structures, trees and other vegetation that grows on my property.
These are the wildfire risks that exist on my side of the roadway. The question becomes what am I doing to reduce these risks and prevent the beginnings of a wildfire? Here are the actions I am taking and will continue to take.
First and foremost, I am removing all vegetation that rests on my property, or that rests on my side of the road right-of-way in front of my property, that is within 10 feet of any utility (all voltage and all signal) pole, wire, switch, or transformer. I can do nothing about the vegetation that rests on my neighbor’s property, but I certainly can remove, trim or relocate that which rests on mine.
Second, I am creating a fire break between vegetation that rests on or near the road right-of-way and the rest of my property. I am removing or thinning trees and other vegetation that I consider to be a potential fire ladder from the road right-of-way boundary and the rest of my property. Some trees may be diseased and need removing. Other vegetation may require thinning, removing, or relocating to create the fire break.
Third, I am managing all ground fire fuel on my property. I am removing dead vegetation, trash and debris. I am storing cut firewood in covered metal storage carriers so that it is kept dry, above ground and separate from other potential fire fuels and ignition sources. I am storing fast burning or potentially explosive fuels such as propane, gasoline, or diesel fuel in appropriate containers and/or in sheds, separate from other fuels and ignition sources.
Lastly, I am giving my home some space so that it can breathe and if a wildfire should occur, nasty live embers falling from my trees will not drop onto my roof or the roof of my neighbor for that matter.
Fire season is around the corner and I must get to work.
Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.
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