WASILLA — The city of Houston Fire Department is set to receive a $500 grant provided by State Farm and the National Fire Protection Association to fund their efforts removing combustible materials at the Little Susitna River Campground.
Houston is among 150 communities across 26 states designated to receive grants supporting 2021 projects aimed at reducing potential loss of life, property, and natural resources to wildfires.
“Any amount of assistance is greatly appreciated because the fire danger is real… I mean just look what happened in the Mat-Su Valley just a couple of years ago,” Houston Fire Chief Christian Hartley said.
According to Hartley, about a dozen firefighters from their department will be volunteering their time to remove vegetative growth and debris from the campground in an effort to protect forested lands from escaped campfire spread. He said this coincides with their fith annual spring clean-up for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, May 1.
Hartley noted that crews will be working throughout the week, and dedicating this time period to allow locals to bring their own wood debris. He said the city used to rent a wood chipper for the cleanup, but they recently acquired their own.
Locals are invited to bring their own wood debris up to six inches across to be processed. Anyone interested in free wood chips is also encouraged to stop during this time. It all goes back to fire prevention.
“The overarching objective is to try to reduce the fire risk in our city. So, every time someone burns a pile of debris on their property, there’s a risk of it spreading… We have fires every year from open burning that spreads from the intended area, especially with burn barrels and campfires. The objective to this is an alternative to burning, that we will chip it up and make it a nice, useful product for someone else,” Hartley said.
In addition to the spring clean-up, Houston firefighters work to prevent fires through a number of community outreach efforts like providing free fire extinguisher training to classrooms, workplaces, and other groups and offering free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with installation to those in need.
Hartley advises residents to maintain at least 30 feet around their home that’s clear of wood and burnable materials. He said the most important thing to remember to stay fire-wise is never leaving a fire unattended.
“Open debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires nationwide and statewide,” Hartley said.
For more information, call the Houston Fire Department at 907-892-6457.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org