Are You Wildfire Ready, Pierce County?

May 1st, 2024

With wildfire season fast approaching, your local fire districts and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources are teaming up to raise awareness about the importance of wildfire preparedness by launching Wildfire Ready Neighbors.

Wildfire Ready Neighbors is a program that connects community members to free information and resources on how to prepare their home for wildfire season. Community members can sign up online to have a free Wildfire Risk Assessment done at their home by visiting https://wildfireready.dnr.wa.gov/.

Central Pierce Fire & Rescue Wildfire Coordinator, Lieutenant Jake Weigley explains, “Wildfire Ready Neighbors educates homeowners on ways to prepare their home and property to be more wildfire resistant. Our spring has been warmer and dryer than normal and preparing now will help firefighters defend your neighborhood should a fire happen. Wildfire preparedness is a team effort, and we need you involved.”

Graham Fire & Rescue, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, and Orting Valley Fire & Rescue are committed to helping our communities prepare for wildfire. The three agencies have come together to create an off shoot of the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program to deploy locally, called Wildfire Ready Pierce County. Wildfire Ready Pierce County includes presentations to homeowners associations, educational curriculum provided to elementary schools, and free wildfire risk assessments.

You can request a Wildfire Awareness presentation for your HOA or a copy of the school curriculum by visiting www.centralpiercefire.org/education-events/fire-life-safety.

Preparing Your Home

During wildfires, embers can be carried by the wind for long distances (up to a mile), from where the fire is. These embers can land on roofs, gutters, decks, or other small spaces around homes and can cause another fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) explains, “studies have shown that homes ignite due to the condition of the home and everything around it, up to 200 feet from the foundation. This is called the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).”

In the HIZ there are three zones: immediate zone (0-5’), intermediate zone (5-30’), and extended zone (30-200’). Steps can be taken to prepare your home for each zone. Here are some examples:

Immediate Zone

  • Remove all dead and dying plants from the yard, roof, gutters, porch/deck, and under areas of your home
  • Remove branches within 10 feet of any chimney
  • Relocate firewood and lumber to 30-100 feet from your home

Intermediate Zone

  • Remove all dead and dying plants
  • Trim trees to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees
  • Create separation between any items that could catch fire

Extended Zone

  • Mow grass to a maximum height of 4 inches
  • Clear areas around outbuildings and propane tanks

Creating a defensible space around your home plays a critical role reducing the risk of wildfire damage.

Preparing Your Family

In addition to creating a defensible space around your home, staying informed about wildfire conditions in your area, having an evacuation plan in place, and being prepared to evacuate if necessary are all important steps to take to protect you and your family during wildfire season.

It’s also important to know what to do if the conditions in your area are changing. During wildfire season, there are two different weather warnings (fire weather watch and a red flag alert) and three evacuation level alerts (be ready, be set, go now).

  • Fire weather watch: There are critical fire weather conditions possible within 72 hours but not yet imminent or occurring
  • Red flag alert: Critical fire weather conditions are occurring or expected within 24 hours

When a wildfire occurs, it may become necessary to evacuate your home. First responders and local law enforcement agencies will try to give notice so you can start preparing to evacuate, however, due to how fast wildfire conditions can change, evacuation notices often come with little warning. It is important for you to be aware of the three levels of evacuation.

Level 1 – Be Ready: Be aware of the danger in your area and start preparing for possible evacuation.

  • Monitor local media
  • Check on neighbors
  • Create an evacuation plan and go-kit
  • Prepare both the inside and outside of your home
  • Leave if you feel unsafe – do not wait for an official evacuation order

Level 2 – Be Set: Be prepared for sudden or short-notice evacuation.

  • People who need help or more time to evacuate such as people with disabilities, people with small children, people with medical conditions, and people with large animals should evacuate at this level
  • Have your go-kit in your vehicle
  • Stay informed with local law enforcement and fire departments
  • Remember to leave if you feel unsafe

Level 3 – Go Now

  • Danger in your area is current or imminent.
  • Follow directions from law enforcement or fire departments and do not return home until officials have determined it’s safe
  • Notification that it’s safe will be given as soon as possible

Knowing when to evacuate and what level of evacuation is advised helps you make informed decisions to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Helpful Resources:

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires

Wildfire Awareness for Homeowners and Tenants