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Better weather brings return of wildfire risk

Firefighters remind people to keep a cleared area around houses and trim trees or shrubs that are touching buildings.

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
MONROE -- Fire crews are asking homeowners to think about wildfire prevention before summer.
Western Washington isn't immune to wildfire, Monroe fire Capt. Ron Adams said. This time of year is when the grass starts to dry out and the winds kick up.
Especially at risk are areas where urban developments mix with rural, wooded areas. That includes much of the Monroe area, including the Rainier View neighborhood north of town. It also includes the general areas surrounding Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Lake Roesiger.
The first step should be clearing away anything flammable from around homes and other structures, including yard furniture, Adams said.
"That is basically 30 feet from your home that we would like to see nothing that an ember would fall on and that would burn," he said.
There already have been several small fires in the region, said Todd Olson, an acting district manager with the state Department of Natural Resources.
Short, green, well-watered grass can slow or stop a fire, Marysville Fire Marshal Tom Maloney said. Longer grass dries out and combusts more quickly. It can act like kindling, directing flames to other fuel sources.
People also should be mindful of their trees and plants, Maloney said. He suggests trimming any branches that touch the roof of a house, garage or other building.
Meanwhile, the mix of decorative bark and dead vegetation can provide a "ladder" for fire to climb up the outside of a house and into the eaves and attic, Maloney said.
He recommends clearing dead grass, flowers and weeds away from the house. Flower boxes and areas with peat moss should be kept moist, he said.
That sort of stuff also can succumb to discarded smoking materials like cigarette butts, Maloney said. Cigarette-related fires are more common in urban areas during the summer, including highways.
Maloney also asks folks to soak or bury campfires before they go to sleep or leave the area. The same goes for charcoal briquettes: They shouldn't be dumped into a trash can or plastic container, he said. That can end in fire.
It's always a good idea to keep a shovel and five gallons of water around any controlled fires, just in case, Olson said.
He also recommends clearing out gutters and any debris left on rooftops.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;
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Story tags » MarysvilleMonroeFirefightingFire

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