It was the worst fire devastation since Firestorm ‘91. Over a dozen homes were destroyed by flames in the Dishman Hills fire. Many of the homes in those hills were protected by what is called a “defensible space” … a landscaping technique designed to deny fuels to a wildfire as it advances toward a dwelling.
Unfortunately some were not protected, and even a few with some measure of fire prevention landscaping were not spared.
It would seem that Spokane, and communities all across the state, have had enough experience with wildfires by now, to know that the odds are against homeowners who do not create and maintain defensible spaces around their places. Despite those odds, many homeowners neglect to incorporate defensible space into their landscaping. Detractors say fire-safe designs have a reputation of diminishing curb appeal.
A few years ago, California passed a law requiring a minimum 100-foot defensible space around homes. Some California and Nevada counties require a so-called two-zone model. Depending upon the terrain and the indigenous vegetation in a given area, defensible space may involve as much as a 400-foot perimeter.
Such legislation has been discussed in Washington State, but it rains a lot in Western Washington, and most of the people in the state live there. They don’t see fires like the one that swept through Dishman Hills, so they see no reason for a state law that would add to the cost of building a home. Perhaps local counties should step up and take the lead on this. Taxpayers have an interest in protecting homes built in places like Dishman Hills, even if they don’t live there. Taxpayers must pay the bill to fight these fires.
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