BOISE - We have seen the mass devastation wildfires can wreak on neighborhoods, most recently in Northern California where several infernos torched more than 14,000 homes and killed over 40 people.
Fortunately, there are some precautions homeowners can take to better protect their houses and themselves.
Thursday, state foresters from across the nation came to Boise and toured the foothills to get a glimpse of what makes some homes better protected than others.
"A lot of people think that wildland fire is only going to affect them if their home is just on the fringe and that's not the case. Most homes in a fire burn down from ember intrusion," explains Captain Jerry McAdams with the Boise Fire Department.
Embers from the deadly wildfires in Northern California is what initially set hundreds of homes ablaze at a rapid rate.
"It was all embers, initially. And then the houses start burning and because of the high density neighborhoods you're referring to we can begin then to get a house-to-house exposure, and then it just progresses that way," says Jack Cohen with the National Fire Protection Association.
To help slow that progression, Cohen says build a survivable or defensible space around your home.
For example, plant shrubs that hold more water, maintain plant height and limit the contact of wood to the ground.
Cohen points out an example.
"It's on a concrete footer with a crawl space and there is very little vegetation or dead material that has accumulated even next to that," says Cohen.
And clean up all debris, including leaves and other vegetation.
"Juniper is a prime example. If you don't clean out juniper, all that dead debris builds up inside the juniper, that's all stuff if you were in the woods trying to build a campfire, that's what you would buy," says McAdams.
Ever since the Table Rock Fire, Brandy Lindeman has made significant changes to her foothills yard, including ripping out her juniper trees and planting vegetation that's harder to burn.
She thinks only about 40 percent of her neighbors are making the same firewise decisions.
"I think some of them know and I think some of them think it won't happen, and it think it's not matter of if, it's a matter of when," says Lindeman.
McAdams hopes all 45 foresters who came to Boise Thursday will take these tips back to their communities.
"Homeowners are our first line of defense, if they are doing their part on their properties, then the fire department can do their job and get it put out," says McAdams.
To learn more about firewise, click here.
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