Creating defensible space can save your home from fire

Creating defensible space with native plants

BOISE -- Boise Fire investigators say it was fireworks that started an early morning grass fire on Protest Road in Boise.

The fire shot up a hillside and caught some juniper trees on fire, and then a nearby home.

Battalion Chief Tom Pawek with says it was the juniper trees that fueled the fire and damaged the home.

"Big fire. Big flames," said Pawek. "It started down near the roadside burned up and caught up in the juniper surrounding this house here, and once they were ignited, it kind of took off from there."

The family living in the home thought they had enough defensible space, but fire wise experts say a plant like juniper acts as a match stick in hot and dry conditions.

"It's like a big gasoline stick and it just ignites and picks momentum, and you have a very large fire, very fast," said Pawek.

RELATED: Fireworks sparked Boise blaze

But it was a different outcome for the family living next door. Pam O'Connor woke up to find the fire dangerously close to her home.

"Woke up seeing red," she said.

The fire didn't scoot across her backyard because they placed rock and native plant in their backyard several years ago.

"We just wanted something that was easy to take care of," said O'Connor.

So they opted for a zeroscape concept, not realizing that it would one day save their home.

"The stones saved us, I am absolutely certain of that," she said.

O'Connor says they also planted native grasses and plants which never caught fire.

That is something Brett Van Paepeghem with the South Idaho Fire Wise program wishes more people would do.

"It doesn't have to be just cactus and rocks," explained Van Paepeghem. "There is a lot to choose from and it can be really colorful and quite beautiful."

KTVB visited the Botanical Gardens to see over 400 different species of plants, both native and non-native, that are hearty in fire conditions.

Van Paepeghem advises using things like succulents and even Syringa, the Idaho state flower, in your yard instead of stuff that goes up in flames fast. Plants like juniper.

"That stuff burns very hot, burns very fast," said Jerry McAdams the Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator for the Boise Fire Department.

"We really have to rely on the public to work around their homes and mitigate those risks," said McAdams.

He explained that near the Boise foothills there is a greater risk of fire danger, but as we saw Tuesday on Protest Road, it can really happen anywhere in town.

"So, it's not just an issue we deal with in wildland urban interface areas, we deal with it throughout the community," he said.

Van Paepeghem said he is at the Fire Wise gardens each day and anyone can come meet him and speak with him to get advice on what plants to use and where to find them.


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