Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Fire Wise Guy Stops By

Bonnie Swanson, one of the Brim­son area Firewise coordinators along with her husband Ken, gave me a call last week asking if I would be interested in an assess­ment of our property.

“I thought I’d touch base with you and see if we can come out and help evaluate your property for you to help mitigate the wildfire danger that could be in our area and help you out in some way,” she had said.

Thanking her for calling, I told her that we were doing pretty good and probably didn’t need a consultation. We have been working to remove brush and balsam from our prop­erty since we purchased the place. Besides, I had gone to the Firewise presentation back in March at Ault Hall. I knew the tips and tricks. We were actively working to make our place safer, and we live so far out that I didn’t want them to waste their time coming out.

“It will help us to bolster our num­bers,” she added, hopefully.

The Firewise program provides grants to communities that are actively reducing wildfire risks. It’s a national initiative that relies on volunteers to help communi­ties participate in taking steps to lessen the amount of damage to homes and properties in the event of a fire. Grant money can be used, for example, to put on a “chipping event,” where neighbors can get rid of their brush.

A neighbor recently admitted to me that she doesn’t like to think about what could happen with a wildfire where we live. We agreed that all we can do is do our part. I realized this was another way I could do my part.

I asked Bonnie when they’d want to come out. “Whenever you want,” Bonnie responded. “We will work with the homeowners.” And, just like that, I had an appointment for the next day.

One of the first things Ken Swanson said after he introduced himself was that anything he pointed out during his assessment would be recom­mendations and suggestions to be considered. We were not required to make any adjustments based on his evaluation. He assured us that the results wouldn’t be going to a “tax man” or “big brother.” How­ever, it would help inform the fire department of the lay of the land and the threats that may be present should a wildfire find its way to my home.

He said he noticed we had a reflec­tive 911 sign which was great. To make it even greater, it could have the number on both sides. Also, the way our road passes us, it might be better to be perpendicular to the road. He explained that you could purchase a sign online, make one yourself, or order one from the county for $35.

We were complimented on having good access to our property for a big rig to turn around in. We also have access to water. The prefer­ence for the fire department is to have access to water closer than a twenty-minute round trip, as the fire truck carries only 5,000 gallons of water.

Ken pointed to one of our sheds that is on blocks. It’s best to use skirting or mesh with 18th inch holes or less, to prevent embers from mak­ing their way underneath.

“It’s not necessarily the firestorm,” he said. “The thing that really is an issue is an ember storm that comes before the fire. The fire is built in the wind and blowing the embers one, two, three miles ahead of it.”

As we need to move that shed, it was good to hear that advice before we set it up elsewhere. Putting in skirting will keep the critters at bay, too!

Our propane tank isn’t as close to the house as it once was, but it could be moved a bit further out. The thing about propane tanks, es­pecially one that isn’t full, is that the heat of a fire can cause the pro­pane to heat up so much it can send a vertical flame out of the release valve. I couldn’t help but imagine a flame thrower and the wind send­ing it right towards our house. We are considering getting a bigger tank and are now considering moving it when we do.

Ken also let us know that large windows, especially older ones, can radiate heat inside a home. He laughed a bit about how people probably won’t think to close their shades before they flee their home in the event of a wildfire. However, it’s worth doing if you’re able.

After looking around, we went in­side to complete the electronic eval­uation form. The evaluation uses a scale of 0-130 to rate the property’s risk of wildfire.

“Zero is a brick building in the mid­dle of a gravel pit,” Ken explained. “One hundred and thirty, pack your suitcases and get out.”

I’m happy to report our home is a fourteen. That’s a B+ that is so close to an A- we’re calling it an A-. I’m glad to know what we can consider doing to our land and home to earn an A without the minus. I’m grate­ful for Ken volunteering and spend­ing time at our place and for Bonnie not taking my initial hesitancy as a no. I recognize that the area that I live in is easily threatened by wildfires.

“Brimson is at risk and all the stakeholders know that. The Forest Service, the DNR, and everybody’s got their eye on Brimson because we haven’t burned in ages and the fuels are just building up every year,” Diane Dickey, Brimson Area Volunteer Fire Department Chief, said at the Firewise presenta­tion I attended in March.

To learn more about doing our part to keep our homes and neighbors safer in the event of a wildfire, vis­it dnr.state.mn.us/firewise. You can also contact Gloria Erickson, St. Louis County Firewise Coordina­tor at 218-365-0878. Lake Coun­ty’s Firewise Coordinator is Aaron Molin-King who can be reached at 651-387-1770. Call Brimson area Firewise coordinators Bonnie Swanson at 218-390-8273 or Ken Swanson at 218-349-0719 to learn more about Firewise consultations and opportunities to volunteer.

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