Upper Midwest Wildfires Raise Concern for Community Safety

Upper Midwest Wildfires Raise Concern for Community Safety

Recent wildfires in Minnesota and Wisconsin highlight the threat to homes and property in communities across the Midwest. According to news reports, the Germann Road Fire in Douglas and Bayfield Counties in northwest Wisconsin burned 9,000 acres while just across the border in northern Minnesota, the Green Valley Fire has consumed more than 7,000 acres. Dry and windy conditions continue to contribute to an outbreak of wildfires across both states, and many homes and commercial properties remain under threat.

The Germann Road Fire is one of the largest Wisconsin has seen in the last couple of decades, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Red-flag warnings have been issued across most of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and residents are being urged to use extreme caution when participating in outdoor activities including camping.

Many local residents, however, have already taken steps to reduce their wildfire risk. Using proven principles for wildfire safety, 15 communities in Wisconsin and 14 in Minnesota have participated for several years in the national Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program, which emphasizes community involvement and helps residents learn how to do their part to keep their homes and property safer from wildfire. Located about 10 miles northwest of the Germann Road Fire in Wisconsin, Potawatomi Estates has been a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site since 2010.

A list of all Wisconsin and Minnesota Firewise-recognized sites can be found on the Firewise Web site.

Wildfire doesn't have to burn everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping are important first steps. Below are actions residents can take to reduce the risk of homes and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Keep lawns hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Remove flammable materials within five feet of the home's foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don't let it touch the house, deck or porch.
  • Limit vegetation surrounding the home's perimeter, at least 30-200 feet, depending on the area's wildfire risk. The Firewise Guide to Landscaping can help distinguish the best vegetation based on distance to the home or structure. Firewise landscaping and plants list are also available on the Firewise Web site.

A comprehensive Firewise tips checklist for homeowners is available.

Those interested in making a lasting change to their home can consider a Firewise construction approach, which means building with less-flammable materials for homes, decks, porches and fences. This includes using Class-A roofing materials such as asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.

Learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners' risk for wildfire damage at www.Firewise.org. Additionally, complimentary brochures, booklets, pamphlets, videos and much more can be found on the information and resources page of the Web site and ordered online through NFPA's online wildfire safety catalog.

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