It has been extremely dry the past four years and with rising concerns about the availability of city water also comes the need to be cautious citizens in practicing safety at home to prevent unnecessary fires.
Fire Chief James Heap of the Frederick Fire Department explained the importance of practicing safety. He said “With summer approaching, hot weather and dryness, it’s important to follow safety precautions while engaging in activities that involve the use of fire.”
There are also concerns for potential unnecessary fires being expressed by the Mayor of Frederick, Eddie Whitworth. “We just want our residents to be safe. There are some ways they can put into practice necessary precautions for a safer home environment. It’s important to stay informed and we’d like to offer some information to make sure there are no fire hazards near homes or other properties.
In a coordinated effort with the Oklahoma Forestry Department the city has provided some precautionary measures that will serve as an asset in home and structure protection. There are four zones for home protection.
*ZONE 1 (0-30 feet from structure): This area that encircles the structure needs to be well irrigated for at least up to 30 feet on all sides, providing space for fire suppression equipment in the event of an emergency. Plants should be limited to carefully spaced fire resistant tree and shrub species. However, since Frederick is in a drought it is more practical for residents to make sure that debris, brush and embers are cleared from potentially hazardous locations near any structure where the possibility of fires is more prevalent.
*ZONE 2 (30-80 feet from structure): Fire resistant plant materials should be used here. Plants should be low-growing.
*ZONE 3 (80-100 feet from structure): Place low-growing plants and well spaced trees in this area. Remember to keep the volume of vegetation low.
*ZONE 4 (100 feet or more from structure): This furthest zone from the structure is a natural area. Thin selectively here and remove highly flammable vegetation.
Residents should also remember to: 1) Take out the ‘ladder fuels’ – vegetation that serves as a link between grass and tree tops. These fuels can carry fire from vegetation to a structure or from a structure to vegetation. 2) Keep trees and shrubs pruned. Prune all trees six to ten feet from the ground. 3) Mow dry grass and weeds. 4) Dispose of cuttings and debris properly. 5) Landscape with less flammable plants. Contact your local state forester, county extension office or landscape specialist for plant information.
It is also important to implement a disaster plan. The time to plan for any emergency is prior to the event. Take a few minutes to discuss with your family what actions you will take. 1) Post local emergency telephone numbers in a visible place. 2) Have tools available such as a shovel, rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw. 3) Have a plan for your pets. 4) Leave before it’s too late. Decide where you will go and how you will get there. With fire, you may only have a few moments notice. Two escape routes out of your home and out of your neighborhood are preferable. 5) Maintain an emergency water source. 6) Practice family fire drills.
It is also important for anyone participating in construction projects to remember that the primary goal is to construct a building with the goals of fuel reduction and exposure reduction. Some guidelines are: 1) Use construction materials that are fire resistant or non-combustible whenever possible. Ask your contractor or building supply store. 2) Use shingles such as Class-A asphalt, slate or clay tile, metal or cement and concrete products for roof construction. 3) Construct a fire resistant sub-roof for added protection. 4) Use fire resistant materials such as stucco or masonry for exterior walls. These products are much better than vinyl which can soften or melt. 5) Consider both size and materials for windows. Smaller panes hold up better in their frames than larger ones. Double pane glass and tempered glass are more effective than single pane glass. Also, plastic skylights can melt. 6) Prevent sparks from entering your home through vents by covering exterior attic and underfloor vents with wire mesh no larger than 1/8 of an inch. 7) Keep your gutters, eaves and roof clear of leaves and other debris. 8) Clear dead wood and dense vegetation within at least 30 feet from your house, and move firewood away from your house or attachments like fences or decks.
Any structure that is attached to the house, such as decks, porches, fences and sheds should be considered part of the house. These structures can act as fuses or fuel bridges, particularly if constructed from flammable materials. Guidelines for safety are: 1) If you wish to attach an all wood fence to your home, use masonry or metal as a protective barrier between the fence and house. 2) Use non-flammable metal when constructing a trellis and cover with high moisture, fire resistant vegetation. 3) Prevent combustible materials and debris from accumulating beneath the patio deck or elevated porches. Also, screen underneath or box in areas below the deck or porch.
If residents are cautious and follow these guidelines, then it will be a safer summer with minimized incidents. However, there is good news about being cautious this year. There may be less fire hazards occurring because there is less grass due to prolonged drought.