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Importance of spring cleaning for fire prevention as spring approaches

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Monday is the first day of spring, and with spring comes spring cleaning. But that can mean more than just cleaning your house, it's also important to keep up with trees and bushes on your property.

Spring is the perfect time to get a head start on trimming your yard before leaves start growing in. Failure to trim trees and bushes that are in close proximity to your home can present a real fire hazard, and lead to unhealthy plants into the early summer months.

"Keeping the branches trimmed away is very important for the health of your trees and plants in general," EverGreen Outdoor Owner Graham Yeiser said. "You don't want things to spark, we live in a very arid climate."

A spark can travel far depending on wind and humidity. If it catches onto a branch or limb, it can easily spread to the walls of a home and start a structure fire.

"You wanna trim your trees back," Yeiser said. "By doing that you're giving your house space, and you want to keep that space. Trees can act as fuel and burn up, so can plants and shrubs. So you want to keep those away from the house."

Fire officials say this time of year they worry most about the smaller vegetation, and recommend taking care of that first by moving bushes and plants away from the sides of homes and pruning them back.

"Focus on your grasses, your bushes," Manitou Springs Fire Department Engineer Paramedic Drew Maurer said. "A lot of folks have decorative plants right up against their house right under their bedroom window. Those are the ones to start trimming back. Keep them a little shorter and further from the house. A lot of people think about direct infringement when they think about flames. But radiant heat is just as dangerous. Those bushes can put out that radiant heat that'll slowly heat up the sides of the house or slowly kick off fire embers, and those are the real dangers."

Make sure yard waste, debris, leaves, dead grass, and anything loose on the ground is swept up.

"Fire can just sit in there and smoke and smolder for hours or days until it finds oxygen and good receptive fuel," Maurer said.

When left, the organic material is called duff, and it's very flammable because it collects and harbors heat.

"Those are the fuels we worry about the most, what we call the light and flashy fuels," Maurer said. "They don't take a whole lot of drought conditions to dry out and carry flames up to a house. So generally start with grasses, small plants, trimming plants off of foundations, out from underneath soffits of houses, because it's those things that bring the embers and fire brands into the soffits of the house and that's what starts the fire."

Fire officials recommend keeping a soil barrier around your home for optimal safety, or to even consider xeriscaping. Xeriscaping creates a barrier between your home and potential fuels consisting of stone, rock, or mulch.

"Our rule of thumb is to have mineral soil, bare soil, up to the edge of your house," Maurer said. "Whether you xeriscape that with rocks or stones, some kind of fancy yard work that keeps a barrier between those organic materials and the house are always a benefit to the homeowner."

Fire season is traditionally May through November, so now through April is the perfect time to make sure your yard is prepared.

If you don't want to to the trimming and pruning yourself, city officials recommended calling a landscaper. Many of which can also evaluate your property's fire risk and look into a xeriscape.

One locally owned landscaping company is EverGreen Outdoor but more can be found here.

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Natasha Lynn


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