West Views: Never too early to prep for fires

Thinking of building that dream home out in the serene Northwest wilderness?

Well, that’s fine, as long as you’re willing to go to extra lengths to protect it. That’s what federal, Idaho and local officials hope you do, not to mention all of us.

With Idaho escaping one of its worst fire seasons in history, with more than 1,300 fires and about 1,200 square miles burned, officials are asking for a little help to contain these blazes in the future.

Fire crews are tinkering with the idea of visiting communities during the offseason to remove brush and make towns more fire-resistant. By reducing the need to spread firefighting resources into those areas, they hope to avoid a shortage of firefighters next season and reduce the bill for taxpayers.

Overall, the price of paying for firefighting costs this year in Idaho is expected to be at least $60 million, and the state’s taxpayers are being left with the bill.

They acknowledged the lack of fire-resistant communities is only part of the problem. Really, the massive number of fires is the major culprit behind the shortage of firefighters, but it makes sense why they want to work with communities and homeowners in reducing the risk of fires.

We hope people locally make sure their property is safe.

Fortunately, according to the Idaho Firewise website, state and federal grants are available to assist communities that want to reduce their wildfire risk.

Idaho Firewise, which has a branch in Moscow, works with organizations such as Idaho State Parks, Bureau of Land Management, the Nez Perce Tribe and others to encourage homeowners to start a “Firewise community” — a group of property owners working together to ensure that they are safe against disaster. The organization educates folks about fire hazards, such as what combustible vegetation they should avoid planting near their homes.

You assume certain risks when moving into the rural, forested areas that we cherish in Idaho. One of them is being around wildfires.

Taking precautions can go a long way in avoiding disaster.