Home wildfire risk assessments planned locally
The Maine Forest Service is doing voluntary assessments this month of homes in Albany and Mason to determine their risk of damage from wildfires.
Last week Ranger Gregg Hesslein and Keith Smith, a Maine Forest Service contractor, presented information on the Wildfire Risk Assessment program to residents at the Albany Town House.
The assessment, conducted by the MFS’s Forest Protection Division, is done in collaboration with the White Mountain National Forest to identify structures at risk from a forest fire, they said.
Communities bordering the WMNF are targeted.
The assessments are only for homes within the area known as the wildland urban interface (where the homes intermix with forested areas) and are designed to be completed without invading the privacy of the homeowner.
Assessments have already been completed in Stoneham and Stowe. It is expected that Albany and Mason will be completed within a short time.
A random sampling of homeowners will be approached for the assessment.
MFS rangers or contractors will knock on the door of selected homes to request permission to do the assessment.
The home owner may choose to not be surveyed. It is estimated that they will assess about one in seven homes.
Each assessment requires the completion of a 26-question form, filled out by MFS personnel, that describes various factors such as type of home, lot size, building materials, nearby combustibles, width of access roads, water sources, the distance of the “defensible space” (an area with minimal vegetation between the house and a forested area). and even prevailing weather.
There is no cost or obligation to the resident and the actual address is not used. The distance from a fire station and GPS quadrants are used to locate a particular building.
Once complete, the individual assessments will be used to create a community assessment.
Maps will be created and shared with individuals and local fire departments, paving the way for discussions and plans for fire safety improvements.
Communities may extend the program into becoming a “Firewise Community/USA.”
MFS is able to assist interested parties with advice about reducing fire risk, and can assist with woodchipping.
There are more than 500 forest fires in Maine each year with 90 percent starting as ground fires. Seventy-five percent of the fires place structures at risk, or do damage or destroy the building.
More information is available from Ranger Kent Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 287-4990.