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Wildfire protection program to end

By MJ Thim 9:34 PM May 16, 2014
PALMER –

A decade-old program in the Matanuska Valley designed to help people protect their homes from wildfires is running out of money.

“I’m very sorry it’s ending locally,” said Beatrice Adler, director of the Ember Program.

The grant-funded program has enough money to operate until September, she said.

“I know personally it’s made a big difference,” Adler said. “For example, some years ago the Su Valley High School burned and we were told by the firefighters that if it had not been for the zone of defensible space, that this program created around that school building, the fire would have burned into the surrounding subdivisions.”

One of goals of the program is to teach people to think like an ember, she said.

“If you think of a fire that started in the woods, perhaps by lightening or a campfire, the embers will come off of that fire and come towards your home,” she said.

Homes and the surrounding yards are fuel for a wildfire, said Michieal Abe, a wildfire mitigation technician with the program.

Abe goes out to people’s home and points out the fire hazards.

One of the things she explains are the dangers certain decks cause in the backyard.

“It [the deck] has nice wide planks with gaps,” Abe said. “This allows for grass or leaves to tender load underneath the deck and then you have the potential for embers coming down on top of that.”

She said people need to create defensible space by keeping all flammable things 30 feet away from their homes when the fire risk is high.

Defensible space makers include gravel, flowers and green grass because it keeps the ground cool and wet, Abe said.

Abe stressed to rake the dead grass away and not to burn it.

She said she’s visited 1,000 homes working for the Ember Program.

Adler said she is applying for grants to continue the program. In the meantime, she and Abe will continue to teach people how to declutter their yards and make it as green and safe as possible.

They said their motto is lean, green and clean.

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