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Lehigh Fire District hosts Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

By MELISSA BILL - | May 5, 2021



The threat of wildfire is increasingly prevalent and is so posing greater risk to people and property.

To help keep residents informed, the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District helped promote the National Fire Protection Association and State Farm’s eighth annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day with a virtual event held Saturday.

The May 1 event focused on what steps homeowners can take to help protect their property from wildfire.

During Prep Day families in the community were asked to do their part to protect their families and the community by eliminating vulnerabilities in the Home Ignition Zone — the immediate 5-foot zone around each residence.

“The Preparedness Day event was held online and offered aids for the community to plan and participate in a risk reduction or wildfire by encouraging people to check out the district’s posted tips and work around their home,” LAFCRD spokesperson Katie Heck said.

Lehigh Acres Fire Chief Robert DiLallo stressed the importance of being diligent, especially here in Lehigh given the abundance of undeveloped land.

“Our district is referred to as wildland-urban interface, which is a transition zone between wilderness and developed land,” DiLallo said. “Here in Lehigh Acres, we have approximately 37,000 developed residential lots that are intermixed and surrounded by 88,000 vacant parcels, many of which are overgrown brush. In preparation for wildfire activity, homeowners need to understand their role and take action in reducing wildfire risk. Preparedness Day is a reminder that small improvements can make a big difference.”

LAFCRD’s website dedicated to Wildfire Prep reports that years of scientific research support that by removing fuel sources from the area around the home — known as the “home ignition zone” — homes are safer from embers and radiant heat coming from wildfires.

They also provided some simple tips that homeowners can quickly tackle in an afternoon or over a weekend to help their homes survive a wildfire.

Here are some simple projects that can make a big difference in home’s safety:

• CLEAR off pine needles, dead leaves, and anything that can burn from roof lines, gutters, decks, and fence lines.

• TRIM back any shrubs or tree branches that are closer than 5 feet to the house.

• RAKE out any landscaping mulch that touches your home — if it is flammable it should be 5 feet away.

• REMOVE anything within 30 feet of your home that can burn, such as woodpiles, spare lumber, parked vehicles, or boats. These are items that can act as a large fuel source.

The Lehigh Fire District also asks that the members of the community do their part to stop the ignition of wildfires.

“The majority of wildfires are started by people, even though most of the time it is unintentional. During high fire hazard weather, we just ask that people try to avoid activities that will pair heat with the dry brush in our area. Riding ATVs through dense brush, burning yard debris, setting off fireworks, and throwing cigarettes out of a car window are examples of human action that can start a fire. Our biggest priority when fighting a wildfire is protecting life and property. Homeowners can help us by reviewing the tips on our website regarding their Home Ignition Zone and making sure their yard is clear. This can help prevent the fire spreading to their home,” Heck said.

For more information on simple projects to do around the home to help protect against wildfires, visit the LAFCRD’s Wildfire Preparedness Day: www.lehighfd.com/community/page/wildfire-preparedness-day or download a free toolkit from NFPA.

LAFCRD Asks Community to Dispose of Balloons Properly

Submitted by Katie Heck, Public Relations Officer at Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District

Mylar balloons (balloons with a foil interior) are a common sight at celebrations. Oftentimes, the negative environmental effects are discussed to discourage people from releasing these balloons into the sky. Following a small brush fire near a home on Haviland Ave, the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District is reminding residents to dispose of these balloons properly when the celebration is over because they can also be a community fire hazard. The brush fire, which encroached on a residence, was ignited by sparks caused by Mylar balloons striking a power line above the vacant lot next to the home. The charred balloons were discovered on the scene by investigators, and the caller reported hearing a loud pop or explosion just prior to seeing flames. Firefighters stopped this fire before it could damage any property, and now they are asking community members to be aware of the risk and keep these balloons under their control.

The metallic coating on Mylar balloons conducts electricity and can cause a short circuit or power surge when in contact with power lines. This can lead to large-scale power outages, melting of electrical wires, and fires, leading to possible injuries and property damage.

To reduce fire risk, here are some tips on how to keep Mylar balloons in your party and away from power lines:

• Never release a Mylar balloon outdoors

• Never use a metallic ribbon with metallic balloons

• Always deflate metallic balloons and dispose of them properly when no longer in use

If you see a balloon that has contacted a power line, assume the line is energized, stay away from the hazard, and notify the power company.

These tips, along with pictures from the fire, are posted to our website: https://www.lehighfd.com/community/page/mylar-balloons-and-brush-fires