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Wildfire Risk Up Across the Nation

September 25, 2012

David Luessen/Times-Record file photo The National Fire Protection Association is urging homeowners to take steps to protect their properties from wildfires, such as this one that spread through wildlife reserve acres north of Valley City last month. Barnes County is currently in a high-risk category for wildfires.

The National Fire Protection Association issued a nation-wide warning late last week about an amplified risk of wildfires. The NFPA said after some of the hottest and driest weather on record, this year’s wildfires are larger than in past years, and homeowners in communities throughout the nation are urged to take action to reduce the risk of home and property loss.

September is National Preparedness Month, and Lorraine Carli of the NFPA public affairs office said many neighborhoods across the country have seen the devastating effects of wildfires firsthand, and prevention is not a difficult task.

“Contrary to common perception, a wildfire does not have to burn everything in its path,” she said in a news release. “In fact, clearing property of debris and maintaining landscaping are important, yet simple, first steps for homeowners.”

Valley City Fire Chief Gary Retterath said the region of Barnes, Steele, Cass, Griggs and Trail Counties is currently in a high risk category.
“It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s still a risk out there, obviously,” he said.

Retterath said out on the prairie, there is plenty of fuel to spread a wildfire, including cropland and tree lines, wildlife habitat, grasslands and pastures.

Rural fire departments in the county have responded to dozens of fires so far this year, many from runaway controlled burns.

“That’s how a lot of these things happen,” Retterath said. “Most of these fires that were happening were really caused by carelessness. You’ve just got to be around it, whether your burning garbage or whatever, you just have to be very careful and watch it.”

Wildfires are generally more of a rural concern, but depending on how the towns were developed they can swallow smaller communities as seen over the summer in Colorado, Tennessee and Oregon.

Retterath said keeping grass mowed and clearing out deadfall among wooded areas will help deter the spread of fire.

The NFPA also suggests: Cleaning leaves and other debris off of houses to prevent embers from igniting the building; keeping lawns hydrated and maintained; remove flamable materials from withing 3 to 5 feet of building foundations and limit vegetation surrounding a building’s perimeter.

Retarrath urged landowners to use caution when performing a controlled burn.

“Be extremely careful when burning garbage. Know the conditions, know the proper times and be there to watch it,” he said.

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