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Marking 100th anniversary of second deadliest fire, NFPA's Firewise offers tips on saving lives and property from wildfire (8/11)

August 11, 2010
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During the summer of 1910, forest fires burned an estimated 3 million acres in Idaho and Montana. The incident, known as The Great Fire of 1910, killed 78 firefighters on August 20 and ranks second on the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) list of deadliest incidents in the U.S. resulting in the deaths of eight or more firefighters, according to a recent NFPA press release. (The deadliest incident for firefighters was at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.)

According to, “the 1910 forest fire in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region is an episode which has had much to do with shaping the fire policy not only of that region but the whole United States. The tragic and disastrous culmination of that battle to save the forests shocked the nation into a realization of the necessity of a better system of fire control.”

Wildfire conditions can be found nearly anywhere in the U.S. at some point during the year. A record 9.2 million acres of land has burned each year since 2004, along with homes, buildings and natural resources. With an increasing number of communities located in areas at greatest risk of wildfire, it’s important to be aware that wildfires will occur, it’s just a matter of when. Damage can be minimized through practical Firewise activities.

Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing your property of debris and regular landscaping are important first steps to reduce your risk for wildfire damage. Here are eight steps you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property from becoming fuel for a wildfire.
  1. Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  2. Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  3. Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  4. Clear vegetation surrounding your home, at least 30 to 100 feet depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
  5. Wildfire can spread to tree tops. If you have large trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high.
  6. Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  7. When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
  8. Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Your state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information.

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