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Yes we can! Sí se puede!

Avoiding an Almeda fire in Ashland is achievable — and you can save your home and our town.

Many people have commented on the seemingly random nature of which buildings burned in the Almeda fire area. And many people are feeling there’s simply nothing we can do to protect ourselves when the horrible winds and heat return.

We’re happy to report that losing your home in a fire is neither random nor inevitable. Every one of you can do important, achievable and low-cost tasks to protect your home and our community. We are in this together.

Unlike tsunamis, tornadoes and earthquakes, wildfires do not move as a mass of unabated force across the land. Wildfires either meet the requirements for combustion at each home, each landscape and each tree ... or they don’t. And if they don’t, the fire goes out. There were many homes that did not burn in the Almeda fire because they were hardened against fire, or because firefighters saved those homes through heroic actions (and that’s not an overstatement even though this is a biased source).

Here’s a secret from the world of fire science: It’s the little things that matter the most. Embers and sparks are the source of an overwhelming number of home ignitions during wildfires. This was well documented by residents and firefighters during the Almeda fire, where embers blew like snow in a blizzard, accumulating and lighting landscaping, homes and businesses aflame, even in parking lots that were free of vegetation.

Embers ignite the most available fuel, such as leaves, dry grass, needles, cardboard and the bark mulch that’s touching your home or business. Bark mulch was a HUGE factor in the spread of fire in Talent and Phoenix neighborhoods — along with wooden fences, many of which are being rebuilt right now. If a fire doesn’t find available fuel, it ceases to burn. So, let’s starve the next fire before it starts.

Starting in April, Ashland Fire & Rescue and community partners will roll out our spring wildfire campaign. During April, we will cover home wildfire preparation, but that’s not the only month you can take steps to save your home before the fire season starts. Just make sure to have this year’s work done before it gets hot and dry. You can get a head start now by visiting fireadaptedashland.org to learn about your home’s wildfire risk and easy steps to start saving your home.

The first easy thing you can do in March is clean up all the leaves, needles and bark mulch both on and within five feet of your home. If that’s all you do, that’s a great start ... especially on the mulch! Don’t forget to clean your roof and gutters of leaves and needles and get under the deck and any overhanging areas of the house too. You can replace mulch with decomposed granite, compost, decorative rock, or just leave it as dirt. That eliminates an all too easy way for embers to start small fires on and near your home. If we all do that, we’re decreasing our risk significantly, but we all need to do this work, so talk with your neighbors and offer your help. If their home burns, yours is more likely to burn as well.

Remember, what you’ve always done in the past isn’t going to cut it in the increasingly hot and dry future. We’ll be rolling out many more actions you can take during our April campaign, but get a jump start now. Go to fireadaptedashland.org and make a plan to save your home starting this spring. You can always call us for a visit and advice on your list.

Ashland, there’s too much at risk and the solutions are too easy. We can all do our part to protect our community. We know this test is coming, now is the time to prepare.

Chris Chambers is Forestry Division Chief for Ashland Fire and Rescue.

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