September 25, 2008

State of Alabama
Press Release: Forestry Commission, Alabama

Learn How to Protect Your Home Against Wildfire

Last year at this time, Alabama was suffering from an unbearable drought. Although we received occasional rain this summer, we’re still not out of fire danger. While autumn temperatures are welcome, along with them drier conditions often develop, creating an even greater risk for catastrophic wildfire. Is your home safe?

A new “fire risk assessment” service for homeowners is now being offered by the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC). As part of a USDA Forest Service grant, the Commission’s Wildland/Urban Interface Team has developed a homeowner’s hazard assessment booklet that gives the homeowner a list of items to check around their home. This checklist includes such items as access to the property, fire-resistant building materials and landscaping, hazardous vegetation treatments, and recommendations for creating defensible space around structures.

This summer, the AFC completed a series of internal training sessions focusing on this topic, preparing field personnel to conduct these wildfire risk assessments for homeowners in areas of high occurrence and in communities at risk of damage caused by wildfire. Forestry Commission associates also received training on the “Firewise Communities USA” program, a national effort that recognizes communities that have become aware of wildfire threats and have made strides to protect homes in the wildland/urban interface. Foresters and Forestry Specialists learned about the ecological, social, and water quality concerns related to the rapid growth and development that is occurring in and adjacent to working forests on Alabama’s rural landscape. The Centers for Urban and Interface Forests (Interface South) and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) provided training materials and instructors for the training.

“A few preventative steps could save many homes from flames and might increase resale value, too,” according to Alabama’s State Forester, Linda Casey. “Firewise” construction, landscaping and general tidiness — such as ensuring piles of trash and brush are removed, or at least kept a stone’s throw away from a house — can make the difference between a total loss and an untouched home. “In some cases,” she said, “a fire will actually bypass a well-protected area. At other times, damage is kept to a minimum by ignition-resistant metal roofing and brick or stone building materials.”

Homeowners who live in areas prone to wildfire, or who have questions about Firewise communities or making their own home Firewise should contact their local Alabama Forestry Commission office to set up an appointment for a free consultation and fire risk assessment.

More information can be found on the Alabama Forestry Commission’s website at (Link to: Homes, Communities in the Forest – Homeowner Resources.)

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