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PFD helps protect homes from wildfires

With wildfires claiming homes and forcing evacuations around the region, local fire departments are reminding people that they can take steps to protect their homes before a fire breaks out.

After the fire at Satterfield Drive and Sunrise Way earlier this season, the Pocatello Fire Department planned a fuel reduction in the area’s canyons this week, where Fire Prevention Captain Richard Nelson swept up branches from the street, after volunteers hauled piles of trees out of the gulley.

It’s something that makes Linda Donaldson feel at ease. She watched the last wildfire come dangerously close to her home.

“We were the first ones that called, we went out there, tried to get the hoses down into the gulley far enough, but the heat was so intense,” Donaldson said.

Assistant Chief of Public Safety Michael Williams said he’s glad people like Donaldson reacted so quickly, and said, to protect a home, keep grasses short and trees far apart.

“The big thing is to create a green space around your house, grasses, short short grasses, not tall dry grasses, but short wet grasses like a typical lawn,” Williams said.

That zone should extend 30 feet past the home. Beyond 30 feet, people can be less stringent, but still keep dry grasses short.

Williams said the best thing people can do is go onto the Wildfire Wizard on The website lets users put the specifics in of their home and gives you a comprehensive fire protection plan.

In this fuels reduction, the fire department is separating the crowns of the trees by 10 to 30 feet. That will keep any potential fires burning down on the ground instead of becoming a crown fire, which Williams said has a greater potential to burn homes.

The worst kind of wildfires run uphill and with the wind, and with plenty of dry juniper trees and houses along Satterfield Drive, Williams said the canyon is like a perfect storm.

“Everything’s pointing to a really bad fire year and the only thing we can really do to prevent it is keep the sources of ignition down, build in those defensible spaces in your home and do as much fuel reduction you can to protect your house,” he said.

For Donaldson, who bought a chainsaw on Monday to cut down some of the trees herself, the reduction is a huge relief.

“I hate to lose the trees, but at the same time I don’t want to have that threat,” she said.

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