Citizens fight fires before they spark |

Citizens fight fires before they spark

JENNIFER HARPERsummit daily news

Special to the Daily/Isaac Eckel Gary Leitch, member of the Willow Creek Fire Mitigation Commitee, marks a tree infested with the Mountain Pine Beetle. The beetles thrive on trees over 6 inches in diameter, and if left can kill the tree. The Fire Mitigation commitee hopes to help homeowners control the beetle.

How to protect your home Clearly post your address for emergency vehicles. Use numbers that contrast with their background. Keep brush and trees clear of your driveway and address signage. Use class A or B roofing materials, such as asphalt shingles, slate or clay tile or metal. Minimize the size and number of windows on the side of the house that would most likely be exposed to wildfire, typically the downhill side. Keep areas under decks free of vegetation. Reduce density of surrounding forest and trim branches near home. Clean your homes roof and gutters. Remove dead limbs, leaves and other litter from your property. Mow dry grasses and weeds. Stack firewood and wood piles at least 30 feet from any structure. Clear flammable vegetation within 10 feet of wood piles. Place propane tanks and fuel storage containers at least 30 feet away from your home.SUMMIT COUNTY – A large fire hasn’t occurred in Summit County in over a hundred years, but that hasn’t stopped locals like Pat and Doug Tormey from preparing for the next blaze whenever it may hit.”To do nothing is a proactive decision in its own rite,” said Ruby Ranch resident Pat Tormey.She works on pine beetle relief efforts in her neighborhood and her husband, Doug, heads up fire mitigation there. “You can’t separate beetle control, forest health and fire mitigation,” Doug Tormey said. “They’re all intertwined.”As a longtime gardener, Pat Tormey became interested in forest preservation soon after moving to the county.”The forest became my garden,” Pat Tormey said.

The Ruby Ranch community, like others in Summit County, has teamed up to do what they can to protect their homes and natural surroundings from fire damage. Individual homeowners are responsible for clearing dead wood and beetle infested trees on their own property. The homeowner’s association pays for the removal of infested trees in common areas, but a lot of community volunteer work is involved in the removal of the dead wood.”This shows how small communities can make a difference,” Pat Tormey said.The Tormeys said when the trees are ablaze and rooftops are beginning to catch fire is not the time to begin considering fire protection.”The fire department can’t defend 40 houses at once,” Pat Tormey said. “You can’t prevent fires, but you can minimize the danger of your home burning down.”

What to do?The key to protecting homes from fire danger is creating a defensible space, according to county fire mitigation officer Patti Maguire. The theory behind defensible space is preparing a house to survive a wildfire without any intervention by the fire department.”If a crew comes to a home with obstacles, they will have to make the judgment as to whether they can safely get to a house,” Maguire said. “It’s a hard decision whether to save a home or not.”Maguire suggests that homeowners make sure that the forest floor around their houses is clear of needles, slash and dead trees. Thinning out an area thick with trees is also a preventative measure.”Trees do better in the long run anyway if there are fewer of them in an area,” Maguire said.Maguire will come to private homes at no charge to evaluate the home and its surroundings for fire danger protection.

“I look at it as if I’m taking a crew in there,” she said. “I check for water supply, overhanging branches if the grasses are cut low. Where would the fire come from? How would it be carried? Every house is different. That makes it fun.”Maguire recommends that people be careful about who they hire to actually take down any trees on their property.”I wouldn’t recommend they do it themselves,” she said.Appointments for home inspections can be made by calling Maguire at (970) 513-4100.Jennifer Harper can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at