KENNEWICK, Wash. - In 2018, 10 fires sparked at Zintel Canyon. Because of the uptick, the city formed a group to clean up the canyon of brush, trash, and other debris. The City of Kennewick got an update about the cleanup efforts on Tuesday.
City members, organizations and volunteers continue to keep the area clean ahead of fire season, hoping that it will lower the number of fires at the canyon.
"It's a large area. It's over 68 acres and some of it has very dense vegetation," said Evelyn Lusignan with the City of Kennewick. "So this isn't something that is completely resolved overnight. It's an ongoing effort."
One of the biggest concerns last year was the lack of space for first responders. Because of the brush, fire trucks couldn't maneuver around the canyon.
"If we can only drive half-way in, then we've got to get off and back into the fire," said Chief Vince Beasley with Benton County Fire District #1.
Those were a few of the several concerns raised after the fires. In April, a large volunteer group helped clean up the area, including Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization.
"With the assistance of police patrolling that area and the fact that we've reduced the fuel load, we believe that it's going to make a difference," Beasley said.
Around the canyon are homes, many with flammable bushes and other dry plants. Firefighters are urging everyone to clean up the area surrounding their home to create defensible space. This allows a fire to burn vegetation at least 30 feet away from your home, giving first responders enough time to put out the fire and protect your house.
"It's predictable. And if it's predictable, it's preventable," Beasley explained. "There are things that we can do and want to as a fire service, and as fire chief, I want to encourage people we're going to work with you and we're here for you. But we want to prevent catastrophic events from happening."
On June 15, the Kennewick Fire Department will go door-to-door, educating neighbors about the importance of defensible space and how they can easily do it.