DNR crews clearing way for wildfire season

SPOKANE, Wash. - As summer approaches so does wildfire season, and Department of Natural Resources crews are already hoping to prevent fires from getting out of control before they start.

In southwest Spokane County, firefighters are working to remove wildfire fuel like small trees between and underneath big trees. They say clearing the way between those trees helps prevent a wildfire from spreading.

"When fire does come through here we won't get, what we call a crown fire. That's from tree top to treetop to treetop," DNR Firefighter Guy Gifford said.

DNR crews clearing way for wildfire season

The crew was tearing apart the forest floor on an 8-acre piece of land Tuesday. They cut down trees with chain saws and turned them into mulch with something they call a masticator.

Todd Graves of Chewack Firewise says the tool will cut man hours, which saves the contractors and state money.

"Some people call it the forest muncher and that thing makes pretty short work of the forest reduction, and makes the forest healthier," Graves said.

The machine leaves behind clumps that are easier for crews to fight if a fire sparks.

"So if that clump does go on fire, as a firefighter we just won't put out that clump," Guy Gifford said. "We just step 10 feet back and put the fire out right here where it's nice and easy for us to put out the fire."

The DNR just received a $200,000 federal grant to clear more forest land in southwest Spokane County. That money helps supplement what it would cost the property owners to protect their land and homes.

Firefighters believe it's worth it compared with potential wildfire damages this summer.

The DNR will host two events this weekend. One is to educate the public about the wildfire season, and the other is a free wood chipping event. For more information on those events click here.