Photo Credit: CCFD1 Captain McBride
The Columbia River Basin is a fire adapted landscape. For thousands of years, both human and lightning caused wildfires have helped shape the local ecosystem by allowing plants and animals that can live with fire to thrive, and limiting the spread of species that can’t. In forests and grasslands like ours, low intensity fires would regularly sweep through an area burning pine needles, dry leaves, dead wood, and low lying dry brush and grasses, while leaving many of the fire adapted trees and shrubs blackened but unharmed. In some cases single dead trees or clumps of closely spaced trees would burn, but usually the frequency of these fires would keep the fuel buildup low enough to prevent the fires from getting too intense. Early in the 20th century a rapidly growing population and a series of large fires led to an official government policy to put out all fires as soon as possible.
This policy remained in place for much of the 20th century, and has resulted in overcrowded forests and the proliferation of noxious weeds such as cheatgrass in the foothills of the Cascades. Overcrowding in forests lowers stand health by cutting down on the nutrients, water, and sunlight that each tree gets, and increases the spread of parasites such as pine beetles and mistletoe. Ultimately more trees and brush, and more duff and dead wood on the forest floor has resulted in bigger, hotter forest fires, while the spread of non-native (and less fire adapted) vegetation in the grasslands has led to fires that grow rapidly and often require a huge amount of firefighting resources to suppress.
Fertile soil, amazing views, and near limitless opportunities for recreation are just a few of the reasons why people choose to settle on the hills and in the valleys around Wenatchee. Throughout the western US, people are leaving urban areas in search of a little more peace and quiet in what we call the wildland-urban interface (or WUI). The increased frequency of large fires combined with the growing number of people in the WUI led federal and local land managers to come together to begin development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy in 2009. The vision of the strategy is “to safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; and as a nation, to live with wildland fire.” The three stated goals to work toward are resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response.
Chelan County Fire District 1 and our partners strive to provide a safe and effective response to wildfire, but we need your help to build resilient landscapes and fire adapted communities. This can be as simple as tidying up the vegetation and flammable debris around your house and taking steps toward making your house more fire resistant, but can also mean helping organize community brush thinning programs or planting native vegetation with the guidance of a local nonprofit. The threat of wildfire in our area is not going to go away any time soon, but together we can reduce its impact on our community.
Building a Fire Adapted COmmunity
Photo Credit: CCFD1 Dan Hilden
It's not if, its when. Each summer we face the threat of fast moving fires in our foothills, right down to our own back yards. Wenatchee has every element for the making of a disaster scale wildfire like those of California's recent history, it just hasn't happened yet. Governments from federal to city, non-profits, insurance companies and your local fire district work together to "solve the problem" but it can not be done without your participation. Working together with a sense of shared responsibility is key in improving future wildfire outcomes. A Fire Adapted Community prepares for, responds to, and recovers from wildfire. There is no end state in this concept, rather a culture of living with fire on our landscape. A goal of the Chelan County Fires District #1 is to work side by side with homeowners, communities, businesses, agencies and organizations to increase our community wildfire resilience, and improve future wildfire outcomes.
We are here to Help!
Chelan County Fire District 1 is available to provide free wildfire home assessments. This face to face meeting provides a detailed report, and an opportunity to discuss your specific wildfire concerns with our professional staff.
In the summer of 2018 CCFD1 acquired a chipper using grant funds awarded by the Ready, Set, GO! program and the International Association of Fire Chiefs to implement a community chipping service.
The intent of this service is work along side communities collectively reducing wildfire risk. If you are interested in our program, or have questions please click the button below.
At this time we are only able to offer broadcast chipping. Broadcast chipping distributes chipped material back onto the owners property. We currently do not have a means to haul chipped material off site.