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Mitigation of wildfires and boom in shrub logging business

Workers cut bushes around homes in a secluded community in the foothills of Reno, Nevada. Their tools are no ordinary weeder. It’s a powerful brushcutter that throws leaves and branches anywhere.

The crew belongs to a company called Wilderness Forestry, which works to create what is known as a buffer-defensive space between the building and the combustible bushes and vegetation around it. employs property owners in

“When developers build homes, they often build them on top of each other,” says Bill Steward, the firm’s defense space inspector. “And there isn’t enough space between them.”

That makes it all the more important that the spaces between homes are not flammable. “And if there’s a fire, make sure it doesn’t just keep tearing the whole community apart,” he says.

The US wildfire season is longer and more intense than before. As such, the fire protection and home protection industry is growing. For example, the tree-cutting market he expanded to $29 billion. More and more businesses are facing the question of how to survive the fire season. sector each year.

Wilderness Forestry Foreman Dustin Carlson. (Kaleb Roedel/Mountain West News Bureau)

At his job in Reno, foreman Dustin Carlson uses a trimmer on unruly wormwood. He sees his job as the first line of defense to help firefighters.

Carlson said, “Set up hoses in the back of the house to give them a safe place to run the hoses, clear the side of the driveway to make sure the truck is safe, and go inside to make sure it’s safe.” give them a chance to extinguish the fire.”

The potential for severe and devastating wildfires is only increasing in the drought-hit West, where fires burned more than 6 million acres last year. It’s about the size of Vermont.

The threat of wildfires in the West is increasing as more people move to the “wilderness-city interface”.

It’s where development and wild land collide. 69% of the buildings destroyed by wildfires in the US were built in these zones. In fact, according to Jessica Gardetto of the National Fire Service, more than a third of her households in the country are in this interface.

“Unfortunately, more people are moving to these areas and how much damage fires can do when you don’t have the space to survive wildfires and how fast they move around your home. You may not know much about

As such, fire departments are trying to disseminate information about creating and maintaining defensible spaces. In some countries it is mandatory.

California mandates homeowners in fire-risk areas to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their buildings, but some people don’t comply because they think their yards look empty and ugly. There is also

“And it really isn’t,” Gardetto said. “It’s mostly about spacing out the existing plants you have and keeping them green.

Other homeowners simply can’t afford it. A 2019 study found that the cost of maintaining a defensible space is the number one challenge to meeting requirements in California.

The U.S. Forest Service recently announced funding to help at-risk communities plan and mitigate wildfire risk. In some cases, individual land owners are covered. However, there are times when homeowners need to do the work themselves or hire contractors like Steward with Wilderness Forestry. And good luck with booking him.

“It’s hard to keep up with demand. A lot of calls. We’re probably six months away from now, as far as new business goes,” he says.

Steward said the company is on track to double its annual revenue and number of contracts. So far, there have been no major summer flames near Reno this year. But he’s seen the California fires push smoke up into the area.

“Fortunately, there haven’t been any major fires here lately,” he says.

But he adds that it doesn’t matter if there will be major wildfires in the area, but when.

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