Homeowners encouraged to adapt 'fire wise' plan to limit risk in wildfires

Free workshop offered this Saturday
Posted at 5:30 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 17:30:39-04

All the wildfires we're seeing these days bring back memories for Gary Quesinbury. Nearly two decades ago, the Brooker Creek Nature Preserve surrounding his home burned.

"They were evacuating us and we put ladders up on the houses, and I took hoses and sprayed the roof so the embers wouldn't catch the houses on fire," said Quesinbury.

It's an experience he hopes to never relive. But seeing this year's drought and the more than 18-hundred fires that've burned in Florida make him a little nervous.

"We are very lucky that it hasn't happened," he said.

He and a few neighbors have taken steps the last several years to help protect their homes should there be another fire. A bunch of trees have been cleared out making more space between the preserve and properties. But many homes and the greenery surrounding them haven't been touched in 20 years.

"It's really dry. So if we want to save our homes, we've got to have something done," Quesinbury said.

East Lake Fire Rescue is pushing for that to happen. Thanks to a grant, they're expanding education efforts to help homeowners here make their properties 'fire wise.'

"First of all we recommend removing any dead vegetation from at least 10 feet around your house. Your trees and shrubs need to be pruned well up off the ground at least 6 feet up, so if you get a grass fire it doesn't run up to the top of the trees," said East Lake Fire Rescue Chief Tom Jamison.

It's also good to keep your gutters cleaned and branches trimmed. Clay tile roofing can also make a big difference.

The Florida Forest Service says that kind of planning was implemented at Indian Lake Estates in Polk County a few years back and it is the very reason hundreds of homes there are still standing following a massive wildfire last month.

"We're not out of the woods yet..we've got a ways to go. So it's not too late to take some of these defensive measures," said Chief Jamison.

Pinellas County is also planning to make new paths in the nature preserve to better attack future wildfires.

There's a workshop this Saturday from 9-11 a.m. at the Brooker Creek Nature Preserve Education Center where you can learn more about protecting your property from wildfires. If you can't attend, contact your local fire department or Florida Forest Service, and they can visit your home to make 'fire wise' recommendations.