Residents are asked to refrain from burning trash on their yards and to get rid of cigarette butts properly.
The current weather conditions, which have prompted the National Weather Service Guam Office to announce a fire weather watch, would make it easy for flying embers and ash to start spot fires downwind. Winds of 10 mph to 20 mph and decreased humidity levels, means fires that develop could spread rapidly.
At 11 a.m. today the National Weather Service Guam Office issued a fire weather message. A fire weather watch is in effect until late Tuesday night.
Guam Fire Department Chief Joey San Nicolas said burning permits are suspended until further notice.
“We’re asking everyone to heed the warnings and safety messages to help keep our community safe,” the Fire Chief stated.
Governor Calvo noted that wildfires harm our island’s ecosystem, which includes fruit trees, herbs and other foliage that residents use.
“Also, with fewer trees and grass to keep the soil in place, we could see more eroded soil going into our waters and covering coral, harming our reefs,” the Governor stated.
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT WILDFIRES
- During the dry season, roughly considered January-June, wildfires become more frequent due to prolonged dryness. In the dry season of an El Nino pattern (such as the current dry season), an extended dry season leads to drought conditions and increased fire risk.
- Larger wildfires are seen in the grassy mountains of south/central Guam as opposed to more heavily forested areas elsewhere. Wildfires move through sword grass very quickly when winds are strong.
- Wildfires on Guam are all caused by human factors – cigarettes/trash burning, etc. Once a fire has begun in the mountainous grasslands, fires spread quickly downwind and upslope. Once a fire has reached a ridge line, its spread downhill is much slower, as is the backwards (upwind) spread of a fire.
- A major concern when trying to contain a wildfire is spot fires forming downwind as strong winds carry burning ash and debris to other dry areas that will then start new fires. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to keep shrubbery and grass will maintained near buildings.
- The El Nino pattern is expected to prolong dry season for Guam, keeping rainfall minimal for the next several months. This will allow sword grass, small shrubbery, and dead foliage to continue to dry, becoming ready tinder should a fire develop. The greatest concern is when there are open fires during a period of strong trade winds. This combination would lead to quick-spreading hard-to-contain fires with a much higher risk of downwind spot fires developing. The NWS will issue a Red Flag Warning in the event such conditions are expected.
Guidance For Homeowners – Tips to Protect Your Home from Wildfire
The Guam Department of Agriculture Forestry Division, in partnership with the Guam Fire Department offers this guidance to homeowners, particularly those who live in areas where there are a lot of shrubbery, sword grass, and other foliage:
- Replace fire-prone parts of your home with fire-safe materials.
- Create a buffer around your house by maintaining vegetation to slow or stop the spread of wildfire.
- Remove all dead and dying vegetation and combustible materials up to 50 feet from your home. The more space between your home and dead/dying vegetation and combustible materials, the lower the risk of a wildfire damaging your home. Consider adding distance if your property slopes. You want at least a 100-foot radius of defensible space (cleared vegetation) around your home.
- Reduce the structural ignitability of your home by shutting off propane and other combustible tanks and storing gas/diesels and fuels according to fire-safe principles. Clear vegetation around fuel tanks and other equipment.
- Trim trees to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from structures, other trees or the ground.
- Plant native trees and shrubs. Native vegetation are adapted to local conditions and require less upkeep, water and fire maintenance.
- Have multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach any area of your home and other structures on your property.
- Report low overhanging power lines to proper authorities.
Munga masongge Guahan, Don’t burn Guam!