Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Cinder chunk a reminder to live Fire Safe

| August 10, 2023 12:00 AM

I’m a retired wildland fire crew supervisor of 35 years.

Last week I found a thumb-size piece of charred tree bark in my green pasture near St. Ignatius. The closest fire upwind from my ranch was the Communications Butte Fire on the west side of the Bison Range.

My property lies approximately one-mile east of the Bison Range. If that fire was the origin of this cinder, that means it was launched into the air by the convection column of the fire and drifted approximately six air-miles. Thankfully this cinder self-extinguished in flight.

During my 35-year wildland fire service career, I’ve seen spot fires ignite hundreds and thousands of yards ahead of the main body of the fire. Cinders like this, which are also referred to as ember-cast, are one of several components that help to cause a wildfire to exponentially grow in size.

In strong winds, ember-cast can look like a horizontally driven hail of burning cinders. In these cases, even a very robust belt of defensible space around a home that’s located in a wildland fire zone will not be enough to adequately protect the home as ember-cast will land in garden plantings, open trash cans, patio cushions and into open livestock barns that are typically full of dry, combustible material such as straw and shavings, cardboard boxes and horse blankets, and dry manure.

Although much is said about defensible space when living in a wildland fire zone, that is not enough to protect your home. There are actually (at least) five different protective measures that all must be satisfied to create wildland fire safety:

1.Defensible Space (green or vegetation free belts, fire-safe landscapes and heavily thinned brush and forest zones)

2.Fire Resistant Construction Materials and Methods (i.e. Class-A materials and Class-1 designs)

3.Fire Extinguishment Systems and Devices (i.e. designated water hoses, fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems)

4.Housekeeping habits (i.e. cleaning, covering, confining)

5.Behavioral Ethics (i.e. no smoking, not mowing dry grass on a hot day, not driving through dry grass, etc)

This chunk of cinder is a potent reminder of the awesome power of mother nature and of the inherent responsibilities we have as home owners to do everything in our powers to be Fire Safe, to build Fire Safe and to live Fire Safe.

Kenn McCarty, Fire Captain retired

St. Ignatius

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