Narrow roads, heavy vegetation, and homes built of more combustible materials are some of the factors that went into an N.C. Forest Service March 3, 2020 assessment of our community’s level of risk for wildfire. It was done as part of the community’s developing “Firewise” program.
In short, Montreat is at “High Risk” for the spread of wildfire.
This finding may not be a surprise to Montreat property owners. Three major concerns of the assessment include: (1) Fire Suppression – our narrow roads, a single entrance, and roads that end without sufficient turnaround space mean that emergency vehicles will often have difficulty navigating the terrain. A number of homes are far removed from the road with no driveway access. (2) Surrounding Environment – Heavy vegetation is the most significant factor that led to Montreat being rated at Extreme Risk in this category. Extremely problematic is the understory of extremely flammable rhododendron and mountain laurel that permeate our town. (3) Structures –While many houses have stone portions, most structures are composed of more combustible materials. Furthermore, homes do not have the 30-foot defensible perimeter between structure and vegetation that is recommended, so that structure-to-structure ignition is a highly possible prospect.
Is there any good news? YES!!! The Risk Assessment reports contain a lot of ideas to mitigate a number of these problems! Most importantly, get those leaves out of your yards! They are a primary fuel for wildfire. Clean gutters, if you have them. Leaves in gutters lead fire right into attics. Make sure you block leaves from getting under porches. Make sure that there is no fire fuel near above-ground propane tanks. Maintain at least a five-foot perimeter around your home to keep the “ignition zone” free of fire fuel, and work to broaden that perimeter to a minimum of ten feet, which should at least keep a fire from touching the house.
For more information about Firewise and tips about fire prevention, see http://www.montreatlandcare.org/project/wildfire-safety-firewise/. In coming weeks a number of Firewise reports will be emailed to property owners. They will contain detailed suggestions for greatly reducing the potential for fire on your property while, at the same time, maintaining the natural appearance of Montreat.