When it comes to wildfire, do you think of Whidbey Island? Most would venture east of the mountains, but with growing awareness of the effects that drought-prone summer seasons play in wildfire ignition potential on Whidbey Island, Whidbey Island Conservation District, Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue District, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Washington State Conservation Commission came together in July 2016 to create Central Whidbey's first-ever Firewise® Program. As of spring 2017, Firewise has expanded to be available to all Whidbey Island residents, with support from North Whidbey Fire & Rescue District, South Whidbey Fire & EMS, and additional partners, including Island County's Department of Emergency Management.
Since 2002, Firewise has been a nationally-recognized outreach and education program that empowers residents to work collaboratively and take proactive steps to protect their homes from wildfire. Its resources and recommendations are tailored to Whidbey Island's unique climate and geography, as well as the individual homes and communities that request its services. Of the over 1,200 recognized Firewise communities today, Washington state took the lead in new communities joining in 2016! There is no better time than now to learn about and prepare homes and properties from the threat of wildfire.
When it comes to wildfire on Whidbey, it's not a matter of if, just a matter of when. Will you be prepared? One of our Firewise specialists can visit your property to conduct a free, one-hour Firewise Home Assessment and will provide you with a list of practical ways to lessen your wildfire risk. Learn from local fire experts about the science behind fire, and steps you and your neighbors can take at home and as a community to be more fire-WISE! Additionally, you can chose to couple your Firewise Home Assessment with an interior Home Safety Survey, a service provided by your local fire department staff. Just check the box on the sign-up form to let us know you'd like to do both!
Questions? Contact Kelsi, WICD’s Firewise Coordinator. You can call (360) 678-4708 or submit your free Firewise home assessment request form here. Our workshops, home assessments, community assessments, & community presentations can be tailored to meet your needs.
What are Firewise's Program Benefits to My Community & Me?
5 Key Areas to Assess Around Home
New Informative Video by NFPA
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wildfire risk on Whidbey
Why Wildfire on
Wildfire risk is closer than you might think. Fuels, prevailing winds, and topography are the key factors in determining a home’s ignitability during a wildfire incident. On the west side of Whidbey, communities tucked within forested areas along the dry, bluff zones that receive prevailing west winds in summer are more at risk. Through Firewise, homeowners can take proactive steps to understand the science behind home ignitability, and techniques to create defensible space in their home ignition zones.
Did you know that Central Whidbey, specifically, is more at risk because it receives significantly less precipitation than on north and south Whidbey Island? In the dry summer months of June - September, drier, fine fuels coupled with westerly winds and steep slopes increase the hazard of wildfire risk to rural residents. Those who live in forested communities near the bluff north or south of this rain shadow zone can still benefit to learn about Firewise, even though their risk may be less.
Firewise is designed to educate and empower homeowners about the science behind wildfire, and equip them with the tools to take proactive steps to reduce their risk through home assessments and site visits with tailored recommendations from resource specialists, community presentations from local fire experts, a rich print & digital resource library for both adults and kids, and ongoing support by local professionals at the Whidbey Island Conservation District.
the science behind home ignition
Fuels Are What Matter
When it comes to wildfire risk, it is not a geographical location, but a set of conditions that determine the home’s ignition potential in any community. Wildfire behavior is influenced by three main factors: topography (lie of the land), weather (wind speed, relative humidity and ambient temperature) and fuel (vegetation and man-made structures). In the event of extreme wildfire behavior, extreme weather conditions are normally present, like extended drought, high winds, low humidity and high temperatures, coupled with excess fuel build up including the accumulation of live and dead vegetation material. Additionally, the area’s topography influences the fire’s intensity and rate of spread.
OF THESE THREE FACTORS, "FUEL" IS THE ONLY ONE WE CAN INFLUENCE.
Debris like dead leaves and pine needles left on decks, in gutters and strewn across lawns can ignite from embers. Ladder fuels present a hazard for homes located next to maintained contiguous forest. Fire moving along the ground’s surface can “ladder” into shrubs and low hanging tree limbs to create longer flames and more heat. If your home has flammable features or vulnerable openings, it can also serve as fuel for the fire, and become part of a disastrous chain of ignitions to other surrounding homes and structures.
firewise resources for homeowners
Be sure to check out the following Firewise™ publications below that will help equip you to have a more Firewise™ home and landscape.
My Home IGNITION ZONE
According to fire science research and case studies, it’s not where a home is located that necessarily determines ignition risk, but the landscape around it, often referred to as the “home ignition zone.” The home ignition zone is defined as the home and its immediate surroundings up to 100 feet. Below is a visual with great tips and tricks to help reduce the threat of wildfire around YOUR home ignition zone. These tips are tailored to Whidbey Island's unique geography and climate.
Learn about the science behind wildfire from Jack D. Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, United States Forest Service by watching the following video. No one has done more to define the wildland-urban interface problem and empower homeowners to reduce their risk of wildfire than Jack Cohen. His post-fire field examinations and laboratory-based research on fire dynamics led to the concept of the home ignition zone, a phrase he coined.