SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Fire Department has released new data that shows more homes are in danger of wildfires than most people probably know.
The Spokane Fire Department says it is preparing earlier than ever this year to get ready for wildfire season. Data collected over the last five years shows that half of all homes in the Spokane metro area are at a high risk for wildfires.
Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer says that's because of our love of the outdoors, and building homes to be closer to nature.
"We have a very unique challenge. One that we all appreciate, but one that we want to be mindful of as we come into fire season 2018," Schaeffer said.
Ten years ago, several Spokane Valley neighborhoods had to learn that challenge first hand. The Valley View Fire tore through the Valley, destroying 11 homes and burning around 1,000 acres.
"Pieces of ash were falling on the deck and then the fire jumped the road and my husband's like 'let's go, let's go, let's go,'" said Mary Jane Vail, who lives in one of the neighborhoods burned by that fire.
Evidence of the Valley View Fire still remains in Vail's neighborhood. Burned stumps and blackened trees aren't hard to find. Since then, neighbors have rebuilt and Vail says she and her husband repaired the damage their home sustained.
"Most of the windows on this side were cracked from the heat. And the siding, it's hearty plank siding, but it had to be replaced because it was cracked," Vail said.
Vail said as the flames were racing toward her home, she remembers rushing outside the house, not sure if it would be there the next day. But, it was.
"The fire chief's like 'this house is gone, this house is gone,' and all around us. And my husband's like 'what about this house?' 'Oh yeah, it's still there, but it's got some damage,'" Vail said.
She credits her standing home to the defensible space she and her husband created around their home. They had started work on it just weeks before the fire, after receiving a property evaluation from the fire department.
"They had done that a month before and we'd started on our checklist. You know, we got rid of some plants and shrubs and we already had rock around the rose garden and that was part of the defensible space," she said.
Schaeffer says you can prepare your home now by clearing out 30 feet of green space around your home.
"Trimming right now, removing trees right now is completely appropriate," he said.
Wildfire season will begin in just a few months, and usually runs through October.
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