KENNEWICK, Wash.-- Since moving to her home at the edge of Zintel Canyon in 1984, Debbie can't remember a year that there wasn't a fire in the canyon.

"The first fire I was remember was in 1985, and it started way up on the other side of 27th, and it came so fast. You just don't realize how fast, and it creates wind, and all of a sudden it's at your house," Debbie said.

She was standing outside of her home talking with Inspector Lincoln Swenson and Captain Brian Ellis with the Kennewick Fire Marshal's Office about the changes that have been made to the canyon over the years, and how the agency has worked with homeowners to protect their property.

"The fire department is great, they come and we've been saved every time," she said.

The City of Kennewick established a working group of residents and other stakeholders to coordinate clean-up efforts to reduce the amount of dry brush and other fire hazards in the natural preserve along the Spirit of America Trail in Zintel Canyon.

Volunteer groups have spent several days knocking down and removing dead trees, and the Kennewick Police Department has increased patrols through the canyon, to prevent unauthorized camping.

Representatives from the Kennewick Fire Marshal's Office will be out in neighborhoods in southern parts of Kennewick this week, leaving literature for homeowners that shows ways to reduce the risk of a wildfire reaching their residence.

"It's important to remove anything combustible from around your house," said Cpt. Ellis. "The arborvitae, the trees-- if they're hanging over or above the house, get those cut back so you have a space of at least five feet from around the home where there is nothing combustible that can affect your home."

That "defensible space" makes it easier for firefighters to protect your home if a wildfire moves through the area.

Among the suggestions are to:

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needs that could catch embers.
  • Clear away leaves and needles within 5 feet around the house.
  • Move any flammable materials, such as mulch, flammable plants, and firewood piles, away from exterior walls.
  • Remove anything flammable stored underneath decks or porches.

You can find additional information on Defensible Spaces on the Kennewick Fire Department website.

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