Fire captain offers tips to homeowners to lower risk of house fi - KPTV - FOX 12

Fire captain offers tips to homeowners to lower risk of house fires

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Although cooler and wetter weather this year has slowed the onslaught of fire season, local fire departments caution that many parts of the state are still dry and vulnerable to wildfire.

Captain Ed Grambusch with the Silverton Fire Department made several trips to John Day last summer to assist with the Canyon Creek Fire Complex and said homeowners in fire-prone areas should take steps to protect their houses if they haven't already.

"Every time we go out on these conflagrations, we do see homes that have made mistakes," he said.

Despite his efforts, and those of other firefighters, 43 homes were lost in the Canyon Creek Fire, and 50 other structures damaged.

Grambusch explained homeowners should work to create at least a 30-foot buffer immediately around their house that's "lean, clean, and green," with no tall trees or dense shrubs.

He also suggested the Fire Safety Home at the Oregon Garden in Silverton as a valuable teaching tool.

The home and landscaping around it were designed specifically to resist wildfire, according to Ty Boland, a horticulturist with the Oregon Garden who helped lay out the landscaping around the home.

"Part of the design philosophy for this particular house was to make sure you have a lot of defensible space," he explained.

Boland said he opted for pebbles as the sole landscaping feature immediately next to the home, then planted small, drought-resistant plants radiating outward.

Taller plants and an evergreen tree were planted a safe distance away. In addition, the home's siding and roof are fire resistant.

Grambusch said common mistakes made by homeowners that can lead to home fires include stacking firewood or other flammable material next to their houses and leaving trees right next to the home with branches often hanging over the roof.

"When we get to those and we look at them, we have to decide if we're going to defend that house," said Grambusch. “We're firefighters for a reason. We really enjoy our job, but the one thing we don't enjoy is watching a home go up in flames, and all those memories.”

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