I’ve been a
for 7 years. I’m proud to serve my high mesa community along with other dedicated, and well-trained Volunteer Firefighters. We serve as both structural and Wildland firefighters. Not a big population up here, so we average about 12 calls a year.
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I’ve got some great pictures to share with you, and some good advice on how to prevent fires and stay alive out in the woods.
However, my first point I would like to start with is an understanding of Volunteer Firefighters. Over 70 percent of firefighters in the USA are volunteer firefighters. Not many small towns or rural areas can afford a full time, paid fire department. There is a good chance when you call in a fire, the firefighters that show up may not be getting any pay. Why would anyone risk his or her life day in and day out for no pay? Because Volunteer Firefighters are dedicated to the safety of the communities they live in. That’s a strong dedication. Other volunteer organizations provide vital services to their communities and have wonderful people giving their time, but not many would think of asking a volunteer to risk their life in service to the community. As a Volunteer Firefighter, it’s just part of the job.
So keep friends and neighbors that serve on your local Volunteer Fire Department in mind. They are truly unique and dedicated people. And if you feel strongly about the safety of your community, think about joining your local Volunteer Fire Department (check out this link: Volunteer Firefighter). The need for new Volunteer Firefighters has never been greater. Imagine if we lost 70% of our firefighters. We would be toast! And don’t think you need to be a young, male, bodybuilder to join. It pays to be in good shape, but most of my department’s people are over 50. And you don’t have to be male! Some of our best firefighters in the area are female.
OK, so here is some good advice on fire prevention in the woods…with pictures to prove the point.
1. Clean Your Chimney. Seven of the nine structure fires I have been on were chimney fires. Four were a total loss. 2015 Update: Had another chimney fire mid February. Even in a heavy snow storm, with a foot of snow on the narrow road leading to the house, and late at night, we got the fire out before it got into the house. It was a metal chimney in a framed box. Damage to the chimney and chimney box was extensive, but only a little minor smoke damage in the house.
Clean the chimney once a year minimum if you use the fireplace or wood stove infrequently. If you use it for heating or cooking, clean it more often. We use our wood stove for both heating and cooking so we clean it four times a year, before and during the cold season. Pellet stoves are not immune to chimney fires…they do burn wood.
Also, know your chimney lay out. If it is a chimney pipe, know if it has any bends or turns hidden in a wall. One chimney fire up here was due to a 90-degree elbow hidden in a wall. The homeowner had no idea it existed. A good chimney cleaning should expose a problem like this.
2. Have a chimney fire extinguisher near by. These look like road flares but should not be confused with them. If you throw a road flare in your fireplace or wood stove to put out a chimney fire, you can kiss your home goodbye. Here is a link to the extinguishers we use at our fire department: www.chimfex.us. Check your local hardware store; they may carry something similar.
3.Get Firewise! If you live in the wildland-urban interface or out in the woods surrounded by trees, you are at risk from wild fires. The best way to protect yourself is to get informed. Here is a good video to start with. This was produced by representatives from Firewise Communities and the Colorado State Forest Service: Colorado Wildland-Urban Interface. Next, go out to the Firewise Communities web site for more information. For a well-compiled list of multiple resources go to this link: loghillfire.org/resources. This is my fire department’s web site. We are in western Colorado on a high mesa on the Uncompahgre Plateau and yes, we are a Firewise Community. It took a lot of work to get this rating, but it gives are community a much better chance of surviving a major wildfire.