The Mat-Su Borough is not immune to wildfires. Scars from the 2019 Montana Creek wildfire, 2015 Sockeye wildfire, and even the 1996 Miller’s Reach fire are all still visible today.
Saturday, members of the West Lakes Fire Department, Houston Fire Department, Division of Forestry, the Red Cross, and other groups hosted the 2nd annual Wildfire Preparedness Day.
Held at Station 7-3, people were able to interact with their local fire department, see a live demonstration of safe burning practices, learn hands-only CPR, and learn how to make homes harder to burn in the event of a wildfire.
“Check the fuel-gas cans, propane tanks, tires, garbage cans-next to your house and try to have 5 feet of clearance around your home, so that way, it is less likely to catch fire,” said Tyler Buff, West Lake FD Public Education officer.
Buff also advises residents to make a skirt around homes and buildings, clear the roof and gutters, take branches and tarps off the roof and get it fixed to the best of your ability.
“Start with the small things,” Buff says, “it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything they should do to prevent their homes from catching on fire. Start with a 5 foot clearance, and work your way out.”
Attendees were able to register for a free burn barrel, and learn the safety precautions to use when using their own burn barrels.
“Make sure to have a spark arrester on top, or a grate to capture embers and larger debris that are more likely to escape and cause fires,” Buff recommends. Also, ensure that the burn barrels have ventilation holes along the barrel that allow for a draft which in turn creates a clearer burn. He also recommends to follow the guidelines to have a 6 foot perimeter around the burn barrel.
Of course, the biggest piece of advice given, and repeated throughout was to get a burn permit.
“You can get a burn permit from any of the fire stations, or with the Department of Forestry online,” Buff said.
The Division of Forestry and the fire department also put on a demonstration of what a safe small fire looks like, and when it is clear.
“This is how we like to see it (a small fire)-water on scene, clearance around your pile, and having knowledge of a safe burn,” said Division of Forestry firefighter Kevin Lankford as the burn demonstration took place. He also advised of having small feeder piles to the side so as to not make the fire too big and feed it as it goes.
Lankford instructed the group to make sure to mix water in the fire as it burns to avoid hot ash, ensure the ground is cold to the touch when the fire has been put out, and to not walk away from a small fire.
Among the popular guests with kids and adults were the National Crisis Response Canines the fire department uses after a mass casualty or other impactful events.
People were also able to get a tour of the station and fire trucks, learn what items people should have on hand in the event of an emergency, meet representatives from the Meadow Lakes Community Council, and grab a free hot dog.
Chief Tawnya Hightower was hopeful with the turnout and would like to see this become an annual event with more partners to help spread the word about reducing the risks and making more homes harder to burn in the event of wildfires.