Silver Knolls man explains how defensible space saved his home during Cold Springs Fire

Ted Mark has lived in Silver Knolls for 35 years. He explains how maintaining defensible space saved his home during the Cold Springs Fire.

Ted Mark and his wife, Nancy have lived in Silver Knolls for 35 years. They've always practiced keeping good defensible space around their house. They said they pull weeds around their yard every year, but their efforts haven't paid off until this fire season.

"We saw the flames behind the house on the ridgeline and the wind was really blowing hard and it was advancing down the hillside while we were trying to get out of here."

Ted Mark said he and his wife had just minutes to evacuate their home as the Cold Springs Fire pushed toward their backyard two weeks ago. "We had firefighters coming up the driveway and he basically said that's going to be on your back doorstep in 5 minutes."

Luckily, firefighters were able to save the Marks' house, thanks in part to their defensible space.

"This house would be gone if it wasn't clear around it." Ted said the entire hillside behind his house used to be covered in cheat grass. That dry brush only accelerated the flames.

"The flames were alive." Ted said, "it was like watching a living creature just roiling down that hillside and looking to take out anything in its path."

It's a sight that's all too common this time of year. Wildfires have burned more than half-a-million acres in Nevada in 2017 so far, but fire season is far from over. That's why fire officials are reminding people to maintain defensible space around their homes this summer.

The Reno Fire Department gave a demonstration Thursday morning to show just how flammable dry fuels like cheat grass can be.

"Wildfire is everybody's fight and that includes the community." In the height of fire season, Reno Fire Department Fire Marshal Tray Palmer is hoping to encourage people to keep defensible space on their properties.

He said something as simple as pulling weeds could save your home and maybe your neighbor's too. "When you have dry and dead vegetation that's butting up against a neighbor's property that has no control over what you do, that's a different thing. Now now you're endangering-- you're not just living your own way, but you're endangering a neighbor who doesn't have much say."

And officials want to remind people that defensible space isn't just important in rural areas. Even in an urban area, like Reno, city code requires homeowners to keep at least 10 feet of defensible space around their house.

Reno city officials said overgrown weeds are the number one code enforcement complaint they're receiving from community members right now.

Ted Mark said maintaining defensible space around his home not only helped protect his neighbor's house, but it also helped firefighters do their job.

"Make it easy for the firefighters to get on your property, to set up a perimeter, and let them save your house. They shouldn't have to come in and clear things away from your house and save your house, so do whatever you can to help them fight the fire."
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