Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of fun summer activities, including barbecue season!
Sadly, local news is already covering wildfires west of the Cascades, which strongly indicates a tough fire season ahead, and a possible repeat of smoke from east of the mountains.
From your calls, I know many of you are as concerned about fire as I am. What can you do to help? Please see the simple points below. Now is the time to plan for wildfire season — Memorial Day through Labor Day, and beyond.
What’s our risk? Vashon-Maury Island enjoys a maritime climate, with cooler temperatures and higher humidity somewhat reducing the chance of major fire spread. But we still need to be careful: humans are the main cause of most fires.
Even a small fire could cause terrible losses in the first hour, as local resources may be quickly exhausted before mutual aid from fire departments on the mainland can reach us. That’s why knowing fire safety and following the tips below can make a big difference. Have a fun, safe Memorial Day weekend, and watch for more fire safety tips as the summer progresses.
Barbecues: See our ad elsewhere in this issue with top tips for barbecue safety.
Recreational fires: First, consider not having a fire. Do you really need one? Make fires only where it’s legal to do so. Site any beach fire well below the high tide line. Don’t depend on the incoming tide to put out your fire – fires can jump. An adult should always attend the fire. When you’re done, douse the fire with water until it’s wet through and not smoking at all. Use a metal ashcan to collect the waste from the fire. See fire safety rules from King county are available at tinyurl.com/5xu6jdum.
Brush burns: What’s the current fire danger? Watch VIFR’s four fire danger signs: just up the hill from each of the ferry docks, mid-island on Vashon Highway, and near Engels Repair & Towing on Maury Island. Consider composting brush instead of burning it. File your burn permit first. Stay with your brush fire the whole time it’s burning. Douse it with a hose till there’s no smoke or heat. More info is available at vifr.org/content/firesafety.
Fireworks: King County’s new ban on private fireworks doesn’t go into effect until next year, but even on this Independence Day, fireworks are allowed from 9 a.m. to midnight on July 4 only. Use only approved, legal fireworks obtained from licensed retailers. Have a responsible adult light all fireworks. Wear eye protection. Keep children and pets safe. Have a charged garden hose and/or fire extinguisher near at hand. Avoid aerial fireworks; stay well back from buildings, vehicles, trees, and dry fields. Soak used fireworks in water. Dispose of all debris in a metal can.
Vehicles: The hot underside of a just-driven car may spark a fire when parked over dry grass. Instead, park over dirt or pavement. Some may remember the brush fire along the highway in August of 2018, which was likely caused by a cigarette butt thrown out of a car window. If you smoke, please use your ashtray.
Plan and kit: Keep working fire extinguishers visible on each level of your home, in outbuildings, and in vehicles and RVs. Know how to use them: use up a disposable or outdated fire extinguisher to get some practice with PASS (Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the trigger, Sweep side to side). Have a go-bag packed and ready near your front door, so you don’t lose any time leaving the house with must-have items. Practice family fire safety drills. Look for two different walking/driving routes out of your neighborhood, in case you ever need to evacuate.
Prepare the yard: Make sure your driveway will allow fire trucks to access your home. Trim trees and shrubs away from your house, and move combustible materials like firewood away from the exterior walls of your home. Check out King Conservation District’s virtual appointments for making your home more firesafe at tinyurl.com/ynkw92pt.
Raise the alarm: If you see smoke, call 9-1-1. Don’t hesitate. Instead, let professional responders decide if it’s serious. Know your cross-streets, to help speed firefighters to the scene. When you connect, say “I’m on Vashon” — cell phones may route to Kitsap instead of King county.
Chief Krimmert is a longtime islander who was chosen as Fire Chief in 2017, after over 16 years of experience as a firefighter, EMT, and volunteer officer with Vashon Island Fire & Rescue. Learn more at VIFR.org.