1. Can I Still Get Homeowner’s Insurance If I Live Near the Never-Ending Fire?
Depending on how close you live to the Fire, you may pay more for your insurance. If you live within thirty miles of the Never-Ending Fire (Zone 1), the law requires you to buy special insurance that covers damage from the Fire, called Perennial Flame Benefits (PFB’s). If you live between thirty and fifty miles of the Fire, the law does not require you to carry PFB’s, but your mortgage lender probably will. If you live more than fifty miles from the Never-Ending Fire (Zone 3), it’s your choice whether to insure your house against continuous conflagration. Keep in mind that in recent years, communities considered low-risk for damage from the Never-Ending Fire have suffered catastrophic losses, because the Fire is always growing.
2. What Can I Do to Protect my Pets from the Never-Ending Fire?
Your fuzzy friends are important to you, so make sure to keep them safe from the unending inferno. If you live at the base of a mountain, don’t let Fido go roaming up the trails in search of adventure: even during colder times of year, the Never-Ending Fire still crackles in the mountains where it retreats every winter, only to emerge in late spring with even greater ferocity. Also, keep windows and doors closed during the smokey months. Those of us who live near the Never-Ending Fire learn to love our Great Black American Smoke Plume, but for pets, breathing the smoke can be dangerous. If your pet can’t stay inside, consider buying them a Puppy Breather at your local pet store.
3. Are There Federal Programs to Help with the Never-Ending Fire?
Yes. Several Federal agencies operate programs designed to help residents of areas near the Never-Ending Fire. Every year, the Department of the Interior spends millions of taxpayer dollars to shore up the beloved Mountain Region Firewall. Not only does the ten-story, poured concrete Firewall provide a tourist destination for millions of visitors from the “undercooked” regions of the country, but it also helps to control the direction of the endless fire as it descends rapidly from the mountains, consuming all in its path. The National Parks Service also runs the Never-Ending Fire Field Trip program, where national park rangers take groups of school-age children to visit the unique ecosystem of the Never-Ending Fire, from helicopters.
4. Why Does the Fire Never End?
Scientists still debate the exact origin of the Never-Ending Fire. Since the Fire is a relatively new phenomenon, having burned for roughly 20 years, we still have only a fuzzy notion of how it works. The most widely-accepted hypothesis is that clouds of hot air from growing Western cities travel on continental winds until they reach the mountains. Because the air from these cities is actually flammable, it feeds the fire at the top of the mountains with a continuous source of fuel. Another theory is that the Never-Ending Fire is actually a different species of fire from the common flame, and has evolved to survive on food like soil, rocks, and flame retardant.
5. What Kind of House Paint Should I Use?
If you’ve lived for even a year around the Fire, you know it can be tough on house paint. The Great Black American Smoke Plume may be awe-inspiring, with its grandiose billows and inscrutable masses of darkness, but it’s also a nuisance. We’ve all seen the results: gray residue on siding, greasy smudges on windows, and darker and darker shades of paint. As if that weren’t enough, those of us who live in Zone 1 (You know who you are!) get those little bubbles and blisters on the side of the house facing the Fire. What’s a homeowner to do? Luckily, there are some great paint brands that have heard our cries, and they’ve produced new formulas just for us. I’ve been using Pittsburgh Paint’s Flame Emperor® line of exterior paints on my Fire-side bungalow for years, and the color is still Colonial Aqua, pretty much.
6. Is the Fire Getting Worse?
Yes. As Dr. Fran Sisell, who studies the Never-Ending Fire, writes on her awesome blog Know Your Flame: “The Fire is cyclical in its dynamics, but long-term trends indicate an expansion of the mean vortex area and radius of maximum extent.” What does that mean in English? We all know that the Fire gets bigger in the spring, comes down out of the mountains in the summer, sets fire to the surroundings communities in the fall, and shrinks back in the winter. But what we’re slowly finding out is that the Never-Ending Fire is getting bigger every year. That means higher insurance rates, more road closures, and worse July traffic jams for those of us who live near the Fire.
7. If I Sell My House, Do I Need to Tell the Buyer about the You-Know-What?
The short answer is, “Heck no!” While state regulations may require you to disclose existing damage to your home from interminable combustion, the buyer has a duty to inform themselves of the liability posed by environmental conditions like the Never-Ending Fire. You don’t even have to tell them about how much your Perennial Flame Benefits (PFB’s) cost! Don’t worry that you’re misleading the buyer. After all, it’s not your job to tell potential purchasers of notorious hazards that all of us should already be aware of. Chances are, they’ll find out soon enough.