Creating defensible space in Surprise Valley
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) —
One Boise neighborhood is getting high praise for its proactive work to create its own defensible space this fire season.
The work crews aren't there now, but they've accomplished a lot in just a week.
Using weed whackers and hand tools, they're clearing away cheat grass and sage brush, leaving some of the trunks exposed to prevent erosion.
Rod Huck loves living in Surprise Valley but understands his home is surrounded by some of the most flammable stuff on the planet: sagebrush and cheatgrass.
"What sense of relief is this giving you that they're building this defensible space right off your back yard? Certainly a great deal of relief and a great deal of gratitude," Huck said.
After witnessing the wildfires that have burned fiercely near them, the Surprise Valley Homeowners Association took it upon itself to build several key fire breaks in this neighborhood of about 470 homes and condos.
The first effort has just started, a mile long, twenty foot wide swath on the north rim of Surprise Valley.
Working with many expert agencies and a local landscaping company, the Surprise Valley Homeowners Association is getting rid of much of the fire fuel and will replace it with fire resistant native grass.
The project was launched with the help of a $44,000 grant secured by the non-profit Southwest Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D). RC&D has helped other communities get rid of sage and cheatgrass.
"The cheatgrass, it'll carry a fire on the ground but once the sagebrush gets it, it'll send up flames way high in the air, 20, 30 feet, the ones that can reach the house," said Bill Moore, a participant of RC&D.
The Boise Fire Department advises the Homeowners Association and applauds the proactive effort.
"You've got a lot of oil in sagebrush, very flammable and when you have a contiguous sagebrush patch behind houses it creates more risk than if you have a buffer, and that's what they're trying to create is that buffer," said a firefighter with BFD.
If there ever is a fire here, the buffer will also allow fire crews much better access to fight the flames.
All the clearing work should be done by early August, and then reseeding will happen. The homeowners association will ultimately pay the maintenance costs but the residents say it's really paying for peace of mind