Prepare your home against wildfire at website

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Wildfire Ready Neighbors, a free program that helps homeowners and renters protect their homes from wildfire damage, is now open in Snohomish County.
The program allows any resident to sign up for a wildfire safety plan. The plan is tailored to their land size and which home upgrades and renovations they could do.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors started after the Malden fire in 2021. The wildfire resulted in a loss of 80% of building structures, according to Natalie Johnson, the Forest Practices Communications Manager at the state Department of Natural Resources. Wildfire Ready Neighbors addresses some of the ways residents could have saved these structures.
at the Department of Natural Resources. Wildfire Ready Neighbors addresses some of the ways residents could have saved these structures.
The program is run through the Department of Natural Resources, which collects information online and then passes it down to the corresponding fire departments. The program, which is active in nine counties in Washington, has already seen success.
“A former fire chief of ours had done the prep work through that program,” says Chelan Fire and Rescue Chief Brandon Asher, about a fire that was stopped by Wildfire Ready Neighbors mitigations. “When the fire could have gotten really big and could have gone for weeks, it stopped it.”
The frequency of wildfires increases annually, Asher said, so the most important part of protecting your home is preventative maintenance.
These suggestions, also called home hardening, could include increasing the distance between trees in a yard, keeping lawn grass green, or even cleaning out leaves from gutters.
“We have to live with these wildfires,” says Peter Mongillo, the Public Information and Education Officer at Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue. “They have been a natural part of our ecosystems for thousands of years. It’s about being conscious where you live.”
As the spokesperson for the fire district, which included being the spokesperson for the Bolt Creek wildfire, his goal is to extend the fire safety learned in K-12 education into adulthood, he said. But that challenge is different between Eastern and Western Washington.
“In Eastern Washington, it's not hard to explain to people as they see it happening more intensely around them,” said Johnson. But Western Washington residents haven’t been confronted with many fires over the last few decades.
“The Bolt Creek fire was started by humans. Abide by the red flag warnings by the national weather service,” Mongillo said. These red flag warnings are normally enforced during the wildfire season from May through October.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors’ goal is to alleviate fire fears by preparing, said Asher.
“Yes, the fire department will come,” said Asher. “But we are a small department. A fire can get pretty good size and a lot bigger than what our initial attack forces can handle.” The Bolt Creek wildfire grew to 10,000 acres within a week, growing at a pace the fire departments were unable to stop.
Not only is the program about making smarter fire choices but its goal is to change the mentality that we can't do anything against wildfires, says Mongillo.
“Don’t start the fire if you're not allowed to start the fire,” Mongillo said. “If you're unsure, don't do it.”

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