Bend firefighter talks about S. California fire fight

And key of protecting homes with defensible space

Bend Fire department discusses Thomas Fire

BEND, Ore. - The Thomas Fire in Southern California is about 90 percent contained, but it did not go without taking hundreds of homes with it, despite the efforts of firefighters, including some from Central Oregon. 

Bend Fire Department Capt. Darren Root and his team helped fight the fire for two weeks on 24-hour shifts. They helped with structure protection, which Root said Tuesday is important for any homeowner to know how to do in a wildfire-prone area. 

Root said having a strong, defensible space is one of the best way to protect your home. That means separating heavy, natural vegetation from your home. 

He said one of the biggest challenges for firefighters and residents in Southern California was the steep canyons. 

At one point, his team was assigned to Toro Canyon in Santa Barbara County to protect homes. About 1,000 homes are in that canyon. 

His team moved brush and flammable fuels from the houses as far as they could. And he said even the design of a home can make a difference. 

Watering down the outside of your home can buy you some more time as well, but it's not a solution. 

"So when we're assigned to a geographical area, we will go through and take a look at those homes in those areas and see if the homeowners have taken care of their property, iif they have good defensible space, and which homes are worth saving because of those built-in defensible spaces and fire protection spaces," Root said. "And which homes are overgrown and which homes are going to be dangerous to us as firefighters."

Root said it might seem intimidating to "fire-proof" your house, but it's really about the small things like trimming branches and trees, clearing needles away from the house and evaluating what materials were used to build the house.

Nonetheless, wildfires affect every area differently.

"So that fire, just based on the vegetation and the terrain, was probably one of the biggest fires that I've seen," Root said. "You have to understand that the area hasn't seen any moisture in about 200 days, and the vegetation is really thick and the terrain is steep. Anytime you mix in those components, you are going to have fire activity."

Root said it was amazing to see firefighters from all over the West Coast helping in Southern California. He said every crew from Central Oregon was amazing and took whatever assignment they were given and completed the job.

Fore more about defensible space and protecting your home from wildfire, visit:

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