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Sunday May 24th, 2015 9:26AM

Kimbrell seeks support for Wildfire Protection Plan

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
GAINESVILLE - There is a new volunteer, non-binding, no cost program in the offing from Hall Fire Services and the Georgia Forestry Commission aimed at safe guarding home and property owners from the dangers of wildfire.

Hall Fire Services Chief and Emergency Management Director David Kimbrell this week asked county commissioners to sign off on it. That would allow for applying for possible education funding grants.

It is called the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, an action plan for wildfire mitigation and conservation of natural resources. According to Chief Kimbrell assessments were made on risky fuel areas, structures, and education and outreach. There are hazard ratings for the community for very low risk to extreme risk. Twenty-three areas were assessed; one was recognized as high risk, 13 were considered moderate, and nine were low risk.

"These were areas where structures and development meet in wooded areas," Kimbrell told commissioners.  We don't want anything like they've had in South Georgia to happen here."

On average annually, the Georgia Forestry Commission is called in to assist in 20 to 25 fire calls to handle wildfire while the Fire Service fights the structure fire according to the Chief. Subdivisions in the county surrounded by woodland are potential trouble zones.

"While there s not much threat from wildfire because of recent heavy rainfall, the picture would change during a dry weather or drought season," Kimbrell pointed out, adding that during a drought period there are five to six thousand acre tracts that are vulnerable.

"It's a beautiful area for us to live in," Kimbrell said. "We like the green space and we like the wooded areas but it's really a disaster if you don't have a non-ignitable area around your home. We all like to live in low maintenance areas so a lot of people will go build a house right in the middle of the woods with no grass around it."

That is a high risk area, but planting green grass around the house lowers that risk because if a wildfire gets up to the green grass, it slows down.

"That would give you time to put the grass out instead of it burning your home," Kimbrell pointed out

That's one of the tips the Wildfire Protection Plan wants to provide to the suburban home owners who live close to the woods. The action plan would make people  fire wise much the same way a neighborhood watch program safeguards homes against crime.

"Fire Wise is a program Georgia Forestry Commission has, Chief Kimbrell said.  Like Neighborhood Watch, it educates the citizens to be fire wise. It's an awareness program to make sure that the people who live in these communities know that there steps they can take to better their chances of surviving a wild fire."
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