Partially composted mulch

Partially composted mulch

Since starting as the Outreach Coordinator with the Living With Fire Program, I have learned that landscape mulch located next to the house is undesirable. This is because, from a defensible space stand point, embers from a  wildfire can ignite the mulch, and produce flames next to the house, possibly igniting it as well. Since then, my husband and I searched for a better alternative to replace all the wood mulch we currently have. We’ve come to the conclusion that our best option is…mulch.

You may think that I’m off my rocker. I’ve advocated against mulch in former blog posts. Now I’m replacing my mulch with mulch? Well hear me out. My husband loves the look of mulch, and considering that decomposed granite or DG was a little more expensive, we compromised on partially composted mulch.

Our decision to change out our mulch was reached after we reviewed the publication, “The Combustibility of Landscape Mulches”.  http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/nr/2011/sp1104.pdf . This study was performed through a collaborative effort among the Carson City Fire Department, Nevada Tahoe Conservation District, University of California Cooperative Extension and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Eight mulch treatments were weathered outdoors for 79 days, then ignited by a drip torch on a hot, dry afternoon in August.  The mulch treatments were evaluated by flame height, rate of fire spread and temperature. Of the eight mulch treatments, the partially composted wood chips which are sold locally, primarily burned via smoldering combustion, were found to have the shortest flame height, the slowest rate of fire spread and burned at a low temperature. To see footage of these different treatments during the study, watch here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wKEeVWgwig&feature=youtu.be

My property is slowly evolving to make way for better defensible space and I’m beginning to feel much safer with our choices. Stay tuned for more of my experiences as a new homeowner.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

If a fire destroyed your home, would you be able to remember the estimated value and age of all your possessions for insurance purposes? Yea, me neither! Since September is National Preparedness Month, I started an inventory of my personal belongings. It’s important as it provides an accurate record of a homeowner’s possessions, helps process insurance claims faster, and helps one purchase the correct amount of insurance. The inventory is critical to document losses due to fire but also to other causes such as flooding, burglary, and vandalism.

Below I review three recommended methods to inventory one’s belongings. While there may be other options, the important thing is to pick one and become prepared during National Preparedness Month!

A representative from the Nevada Division of Insurance recommended utilizing either a free smart phone app or a PDF inventory sheet created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).  In addition, the Living With Fire (LWF) Program also has a more detailed inventory sheet.

1screenshot_20160908-130836

An example of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Scr.APP.book app on a smartphone

Both the smartphone App and PDF inventory sheet can be found at the following link: http://www.insureuonline.org/insureu_special_disaster.htm

One can always install the app on their smart phone by searching for Scr.APP.book (see above). The app’s interface is very user friendly and makes it easy to upload photos. Once the app is installed, click the icon, “ADD ITEM” and complete the screen (see above). One can take multiple photos of the item by clicking the camera button at the top, taking a photo and then clicking “OK”. The information entered on the form can be retained by clicking the save button. To view the items already input into the form, click the item list and edit information if necessary. An individual form must be completed for each item in the home. This information can then be exported from the app to be e-mailed, or saved to a computer or flash drive. Additionally, there are tips and resources on the app to connect to the NAIC and become more informed regarding advisable insurance coverage.

naic-checklist-pdf

A screenshot of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners home inventory checklist PDF

The PDF inventory sheet is also easy to use but, unlike the app, users must first print the form, record the information by hand and attach separate pictures to the inventory sheet (see above).  Each item’s information such as item identification, price, date purchased, and brand name must be entered on the form for each separate room. The completed form along with photographs can then be retained as a hard copy.  Users must remember to keep the inventory sheet and photos separate from the house. This ensures that in the event of a disaster, the inventory sheet is not destroyed along with the house. Here is a direct link to print the inventory checklist:

http://www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf

weblwf-household-inventory-checklist

Above is a view of the My Household Inventory Checklist by the Living With Fire Program

Unlike the NAIC form, item information can be entered and edited directly on a computer and can be saved to a drive, thumb drive, etc. (see above).  This inventory sheet asks for more information than the NAIC options, BUT also provides users with a more detailed inventory of belongings. The inventory sheet suggests considering items that I normally wouldn’t have, including silverware, clothing, tools, and recreation equipment. The LWF Program inventory also explains how to calculate the current cash value of items and recommends including this as part of the record. While calculating the current cash value of each item isn’t necessary, it helps to estimate the item’s worth for insurance reimbursement purposes. As with the NAIC PDF inventory sheet, pictures must be taken of the items and attached or saved to the PDF. To download this method, click here: http://www.livingwithfire.info/how-we-can-help and scroll down to the “Household Inventory Program” tab.

Out of all three options, I felt that the smartphone app was by far the easiest to use because my smart phone’s camera is linked to the app. The app stores the photos and inventory information all in one place. If I were to complete the other two inventory sheets, I would need to take a photo of each item, print it out, or save it digitally and link it to the completed form. However, I do recommend reviewing the Living With Fire Program’s inventory sheet as it made me consider adding other items that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.  Overall, this process is very time consuming as it took me a total of two hours to document only six items on the app. It’s recommended to inventory one’s belongings for a couple of hours each weekend to prevent documentation burn out. I began my inventory process with the larger, more recently purchased items however after reviewing the LWF inventory, I’ll need to include more of a detailed list such as my silverware and clothing. I’ve started keeping copies of my receipts for my purchased items, making it easier to look up the brand, item’s name, price, etc.  Remember it’s better to have an incomplete list rather than no list at all.  Once your list is complete, store it in a safety deposit box, save a digital copy, or place a copy with a trusted friend or family member. Just ensure the inventory is not destroyed if your house is a total loss.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261                       or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

After experiencing the recent Driscoll Fire, (click here to view last month’s blog) it becomes even more important to continue my efforts to make my home wildfire prepared. I look to the publication, “Be Ember Aware!” for ideas on how to reduce the wildfire threat to my home. This publication contains a list of 22 places around the home that can be vulnerable to ignition by windblown embers produced by a wildfire. During a wildfire, embers can be blown over a mile away from the main flame front and can bombard a home easily igniting these flammable spots. In fact, embers are the major reason why homes are destroyed in wildfires. I won’t review all 22 of the vulnerable areas, but will note some of my home’s problem areas that require attention.

Once I removed the cedar tree in the front yard, (click here for my first month’s blog) it was apparent that our foundation vent had a hole in it and needed to be covered with 1/8-inch wire mesh. If embers were pelting my house, the hole in the vent would have provided an easy entry for embers to blow into the crawlspace and ignite the home.

crawlspace vent broken

The hole in the crawlspace vent.

UGH, my weathered deck. Unfortunately, my husband and I have yet to replace or maintain our deck. All decks should be in good condition to resist ember ignition. It’s also a good idea to remove all combustible debris out from under the deck as those are a fire hazard.  Even the accumulated litter between deck floor boards can be a source of ignition from embers.  A few months ago, my husband and I purchased wooden lattice panels to enclose the deck. However, the publication recommends using “ignition-resistant siding materials”, or 1/8-inch wire mesh to prevent debris and embers from blowing under the deck – I guess we won’t be using those panels.

The condition of my deck. Also note the open space between the deck and the ground.

The condition of my deck. Also note the open space between the deck and the ground.

under deck

A view beneath the deck. The dead vegetation under the deck must be removed.

My home “to-do” list continues to get longer and longer but at least I have an idea of how to keep my home safe from embers. For a full list of vulnerable, flammable areas of your home check out the “Be Ember Aware!” publication (click here for the “Be Ember Aware!” publication) Also, keep an eye out for more of my lessons and experiences with these blogs.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261                       or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

As the Living With Fire Outreach Coordinator, knowing quick updates of current fires is important so we can notify our audience via social media. On Wednesday, I scrolled through Twitter to learn more about the Hawken Fire and I read a Reno Fire Department tweet, “Crews on the scene of another fire threatening structures off of Driscoll Dr. Fire attack is underway #DriscollFire.” My blood ran cold. That’s near my house. Adrenaline pumped through my body as I raced my car from the office to my house. Once in my neighborhood, I was stopped by Reno Police Department and was forced to park my vehicle one-third of a mile away from my house. I got out and literally ran up steep streets to grab my dog and personal belongings.  The closer to my house, the more the streets were cluttered with fire engines, NV Energy vehicles, unmarked white trucks and Volunteer Search and Rescue vehicles. Fire hoses ran along the street and water trickled from them down the pavement. Once I reached the corner of my street, some of my neighbors congregated  and watched firefighters spray water at the charred, smoking fire scar. The fire was mostly contained and except for one damaged structure, all homes were saved. A wave of relief came over me. We are safe. Thank goodness for the swift action of the Reno Fire Department and other emergency responders. Fire season is upon us, and it’s important to be prepared for potential evacuations. I was not prepared this time.

A scene of the Driscoll fire and emergency responders

A scene of the Driscoll Fire and emergency responders.

 

The Living With Fire website has interactive multimedia that explains what you can do during a fire , as well as an evacuation checklist . For example, did you consider that you should take important documents such as bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, medical and immunization records, wills, contracts, titles and deeds? Or did you think to bring your pet’s medication and vaccination information? It’s also a good idea to have pictures of your animal that show distinguishing marks just in case your pet gets lost. I never considered any of these, but now I have a box of these documents and pictures that I can grab if I’m forced to quickly evacuate. Now I am prepared for the next time.

Please take the time to check out these links. Stay tuned for other blogs on my experiences of a homeowner in a fire prone area.

Jamie Headshot

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

As the new Outreach Coordinator with the Living With Fire Program, I thought it was fitting to share my trials and tribulations as an owner of an older home in a fire prone area. In 2014 my husband and I purchased our dream home which is nestled in the hills of old Southwest Reno. As first-time homebuyers of a 46 year old home, we discovered the learning curve was steep regarding proper landscape maintenance. I used to look at my yard and shake my head in disbelief and wonder, “Where do I start?” Wait…who am I kidding, I still do that!

The picture marked “Before” is a Google photo of our front yard before we purchased the home. The number “1” represents the ornamental junipers. The number “2” marks the cedar trees. The picture marked “After” is what our home looks like today.

google photo front yard 2011After front yard photo blog 1

After comparing the “before” and “after” photos, it’s apparent that we removed the junipers and cedars. Junipers are bad news during a wildfire because embers can become lodged within them, smolder, ignite and burn at high intensity later after firefighters leave. Firefighters often refer to junipers as “little green gas cans”. I knew these plants were flammable in a wildfire and I ensured this was one of the first plants to remove. The homeowners before me also planted two cedar trees up against the house. The overgrown trees had grown into the roof eaves and were touching the house. This is also a fire hazard and during my first week on the job, I learned that evergreen shrubs such as junipers and trees such as cedar should be located a minimum of 30 feet from the house. In the “after” photo, you can see that these evergreens were removed.

Also in the “after” photo, one can see that we replaced our landscape rock with shredded wood mulch. Unfortunately, on the FIRST day of my job I learned that a home with mulch within the first five feet of a home is NOT desirable. Embers from a wildfire can ignite the mulch, and produce flames next to the house. I also learned that embers are the main reason why homes catch fire during a wildfire. While mulch is aesthetically pleasing, I urge others to not make the same mistake as me and instead use landscape rock, gravel, hard surfaces or herbaceous plants. (Now I have the lovely task of convincing my husband that the mulch MUST be replaced.)

While I have more work ahead of me, these are some of my lessons and experiences as I brave the world of homeownership. To those interested, I highly recommend looking at the publication, “Choosing the Right Plants”. Stay tuned for more of my trials and tribulations!

Jamie Headshot

 

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Recently, I had a defensible space inspection performed on my property by Nevada Division of Forestry’s fire protection officer, Chanse Hunwardsen. Chanse noted some problem areas that I have previously addressed in former blogs, and he also addressed some issues that I had not considered. Watch this video to learn what issues were found and how to resolve them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tuvMbjlRIY&feature=youtu.be

To learn more about our interactive defensible space graphic, check it out here.

Jamie HeadshotJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with her husband and their mini Australian Shephard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Did you know that I grew up in Illinois? Yup… the good ol’ Midwest. We don’t live with the threat of wildfire in that neck of the woods – our “gift” from Mother Nature comes in the form of a mighty whirlwind called a tornado. When I moved to Reno, I thought I had mostly escaped tornadoes … but did you know there is such a thing as a “fire tornado” … otherwise known as a “fire whirl”? This event, although rare, is highly destructive and occurs when a fire is whipped up by strong, hot, dry air currents to form a vertical whirl – literally creating a tornado full of fire!  Their occurrence is not only visually spectacular but alerts firefighters of very unstable air and extreme fire behavior.

Fire whirls can uproot trees and can carry flaming debris great distances! Some of the largest fire whirls can be more than half a mile tall, produce winds over 100 mph and last for more than 20 minutes. Not surprisingly, these flaming tornadoes can ignite new fires by moving into unburned territory. Fire whirls are so threatening, that virtually all state forestry services include fire whirl basics in their training. I don’t know about you, but I am happy that I won’t have to deal with them anytime soon. It definitely helps me to appreciate my firefighters that much more and peaks my awareness level about MY part in being prepared for wildfires. Remember, that while our friend Smokey Bear says … only YOU can prevent wildfires, it is also true that only WE can prepare our homes for wildfire when it occurs. Check out how you can prepare your home for wildfire here!

Do you have any experiences with fire whirls? Please share your stories in the comments below!

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.

Washoe County's CodeRED logo

Washoe County’s CodeRED logo

In July’s post (which you can read here), I talked about the importance of creating a Family Emergency Plan in order to prepare for wildfire. Since I really had no clue what I would do in a real-life evacuation, I decided to do a little research. I inquired about evacuation routes and found out that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for everyone. This is because each incident is different and the routes are difficult to predict. So, it was recommended that I sign up for my specific location’s emergency notification system. For me, this service is Washoe County Code Red. The Code Red Notification system, which is easy and free to sign up for, uses a series of remote computers and telephone lines to relay a recorded message during an emergency. The notifications can be sent to multiple phone lines and email addresses, and will give you specific instructions as to how to respond to an emergency in your area.

It’s also important to pay attention to announcements on the radio or TV and the Emergency Alert System in terms of getting information on a current emergency situation. Social media can be helpful as well. I know that not everyone likes (or understands) social media, but it really is a valuable tool for officials to send information quickly to a large amount of people. I bet your local emergency services department has a social media account! Washoe County’s Facebook page can be found here.

So, I signed up for Code Red and feel a bit more at ease in terms of what to do in an emergency with this information. Why not take some time right now to learn about your area’s emergency notification systems? A good place to start is by calling your county’s emergency management department, local fire department or Sheriff’s department. If you live in Washoe County and would like to sign up for CODE Red, visit their site here. And check out our Wildfire Evacuation Checklist here for more tips on how to prepare for a wildfire evacuation!

Share with us what you learned about your area’s emergency notification systems in the comments. Together, we can all be informed!

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.

Hey Living With Fire friends, welcome back to our blog! I’m still working on my defensible space and evacuation plan from previous weeks (you can check those posts out here and here).

Today we have something new for you: our very first video blog! In it, we share what happened on my walk a few days ago at Anderson Park in Reno, NV. I was so excited to enjoy one of my favorite walking trails, but discovered that the trail was closed off. Fortunately, our fellow Living With Fire friend, Vince Thomas, was on site and I discussed with him what was going on. You see, he was hired by Washoe Parks and Open Spaces on a grant provided by the Nevada Land Trust, to fix the situation at hand. The trail was closed off due to being overgrown with weeds and brush, which is not only bad for walkers, but is also a wildfire hazard! Luckily, Vince, the owner of Goat Grazers, was put in charge to clear the trail.

In our video blog we discuss what Goat Grazers is, and how they will help the overgrown trail. Let us know in the comments what you think about our first video blog and if you would like us to continue making them. Click here to see it! And if you want a good laugh, be sure to check out our second video for some funny “behind-the-scenes” footage (click here or the link below).

(Special Note: The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Cooperative Extension is implied.)

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.

 

To-go bag essentials

To-go bag essentials

I was talking with my friend, Jed Horan, from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and he suggested I write a blog on the importance of having an evacuation plan, knowing a route out of my neighborhood and what to do if that evacuation route was blocked.

What a great idea, I thought…

However, once I sat down to write this article, I realized a couple of things:

  1. My husband and I are not prepared for a real life evacuation at all, and
  2. Preparing for an evacuation is not a simple “one-size-fits-all” topic.

In order to set a good example, I want to start prepping now before it is too late. My first stop was to the Living With Fire website where I discovered some general wildfire evacuation preparation guidelines that can help beginners, like me, get started. Writing this blog really got me thinking about important subjects that I had not thought of before such as:

  • Creating a Family Emergency Plan
    • Who would my husband and I contact? And how?
    • Where would we meet?
    • What would we take?
    • Where is our escape route and safe place?
    • Do we know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity?
  • Essentials for a “to-go” bag (click here for tips)
  • Disaster Supply Kits (tips on making this kit here)
  • Preparing for Pets
    • What if our dog, Bella, was at doggy daycare? Do they have an emergency response plan?
    • Don’t forget about pet food!

I don’t know about you, but I am glad my Living With Fire teammates brought this to my attention. Wildfires are inevitable – so preparing for them in advance can help ease your stress a bit. I’ve got a lot of planning ahead of me, but feel free to follow me and join in on my journey as I tackle each one of these steps. I’ll keep you updated on my progress here and you can help hold me accountable! Meanwhile, I’m still working on my defensible space from last month … click here to see that post.

What about you? Are you prepared for a wildfire evacuation?  Do you have any tips to help me prepare?

Comment below!

About the Author: Jenny Digesti is the Assistant for the Living With Fire Program. You can follow her on twitter here.