Crippling Wildfires Hit Central Washington; Is Your Community Prepared for a Wildfire?
August 18, 2015
A series of firestorms recently hit central Washington with an estimated 50 to 75 homes destroyed while countless other residencies and commercial buildings continue to be at risk. Thousands have been evacuated as the fires continue to spread. Five National Guard crews of 20 people each are being utilized along with neighboring areas responding to mutual aid calls. No injuries have been reported.
According to The Wenatchee World, the Reach, Cagle, and Antoine fires burning around Chelan, WA, from south to the north are thought to have burned together and are now collectively called the Reach Fire. It includes the fires its embers sparked across the Columbia River in Douglas County in McNeil Canyon and, farther north, near Bridgeport Bar. The Black Canyon Fire, about 20 miles northwest of Chelan in Okanogan County, may also be included in the Reach Fire. The fires were sparked by lightning early Friday.
National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Wildland Committee Chairman Ron Roy currently serves as the Division Chief for the Douglas County Fire District #2 in East Wenatchee, WA. He lives about 40 miles south of the fire area and is currently working on the restoration of downed power lines. Roy recently wrote an article for the NVFC’s Dispatch newsletter emphasizing the extreme dangers of wildfires each year and encouraged residents to prepare for wildfire threats.
“Fire departments are being stretched thinner and thinner as the wildfire season becomes longer and the fires become larger,” he wrote. “Without mitigation of the lands, public and private, wildland fires will continue with the magnitude and intensities that we have experienced in recent years.”
The NVFC aims to help fire departments and residents prepare for such wildfire threats through the Wildland Fire Assessment Program (WFAP). The WFAP was developed in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to train volunteer firefighters and Fire Corps members to offer personal home assessments to residents living in the wildland-urban interface. Once trained, these volunteers have the knowledge and skills to identify risks in and around a property. The program encourages homeowners to take personal responsibility for their home and property by utilizing suggestions provided by the department during the assessment process and make changes that will improve the chances of their home’s survivability when the next fire strikes.
The NVFC encourages departments and residents to take advantage of the resources and training offered through the WFAP to better prepare those living in the wildand-urban interface for the next wildfire. Help change your community from being a potential ‘lessons learned’ story to being a success story in wildland fire mitigation and resilience.