Firefighter Ernesto Renteria attempts to demonstrate the use of a portable fire extinguisher during the Virgin Rivers Community Meeting held on May 25. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

The Virgin Rivers Community met on Thursday, May 25, at the Beaver Dam Fire Department. Besides being the monthly meeting place for the VRC, the department was the perfect place to hold this meeting for the subject matter of the evening and now was the perfect time of year.

The meeting was about how to operate a fire extinguisher. While it may seem a simple matter of common sense many people are a bit intimidated when it comes to actually using one because most people simply haven’t.

Captain Damon Jackson spoke first about fire extinguishers and the different types. He stressed the importance of having and ABC (extinguishes all types) extinguisher and having the extinguishers inspected yearly. Many times, he said, people will have extinguishers in their homes but they don’t get them inspected or recharged and when it comes time to use them, they don’t work. Just having the extinguishers in the home isn’t enough and might give you a false sense of security if you don’t know how to use it properly or they are expired.

The demonstration was taken outside to give people an opportunity to try using a fire extinguisher; some commented that they were heavier than they anticipated.

Captain Damon Jackson demonstrates, with a water filled fire extinguisher, how to properly use a fire extinguisher using a sweeping motion at the base. The water filled extinguishers are commonly used in first response to an automobile brake fire to cool the brakes and possibly provide lifesaving minutes to the victims of vehicular accidents before the rest of the rescue team arrives. Photo by Teri Nehrenz

Jackson began by pulling the pin on the first of three extinguishers brought to the meeting for demo use. He aimed the hose low, toward the base of the fire, and in a sweeping motion of the hose he simultaneously pulled the trigger and…the extinguisher didn’t work.

Beaver Dam Firefighter Ernesto Renteria was up next with the second extinguisher and he repeated the same steps as the Captain and achieved the same results; the second extinguisher was dead also.

The next extinguisher gave the spectators every reason to believe Captain Jackson’s talk about the false sense of security that simply having an extinguisher around can give you because it failed too.

Keeping fire extinguishers in accessible spots and maintaining home fire alarms is the first step to protecting the inside of your home against fire.

The demonstration by the Beaver Dam Firemen was right on time with the fires that the communities of Desert Springs, Arizona, Scenic, Arizona, and Bunkerville have experienced very recently. Two of the fires are thought to have originated outside the homes and one on the inside, it’s important to protect your home inside and out.

Rick Heflebower is the Extension Horticulturist for Utah State University in Washington County and gives some basic outside safety tips to protect your home against wildfires and is good advice for any desert dwelling homeowner.

The amount and the type of the vegetation immediately around homes is a key factor when it comes to fire danger.

Flammable vegetation including evergreen trees and shrubs should be kept at least 30 feet away from homes, garages, and out buildings. This is considered a minimum amount of space needed to defend your home (defendable space) in case of a fire.

Annual grains (such as wheat, oats, and rye) grow well in early spring and are often planted for erosion control. Since these dry down quickly in the summer they should be mowed off so they do not become a fire hazard. Weedy grasses (non-natives) that also act this way include cheat grass, and foxtail. They too should be mowed short or pulled to prevent them from becoming a fire hazard.

Evergreens provide benefits but may be a serious fire hazard. Volatile oils in evergreens make them extremely flammable. Dry needles can also accumulate on roofs, in gutters, and next to the home where they may ignite. For this reason, their use and especially their location in the landscape is very critical. Since evergreen trees are so flammable, they should not be planted against your home.