December 2011 City of Yakima Issues Brief

Contact: Streets and Traffic Manager Joe Rosenlund – 509-575-6005 –
Community Relations Manger Randy Beehler – 509-901-1142 –

Everyone Needs To Pitch In To Combat Winter Weather

Every winter, Yakima gets hit with its fair share of snow and ice. City crews, along with private plow operators hired by the City, follow a formal snow removal plan and focus on keeping roadways clear, especially near schools, hospitals, major intersections, and on hills. The snow removal plan dictates under what conditions crews will be dispatched.

But it takes a community-wide effort to keep Yakima as safe as possible even when snow falls or freezing rain hits the area.

In fact, under a City ordinance passed several years ago, it’s the responsibility of individual home owners and business owners to keep sidewalks near their property free of snow and ice.

Streets and Traffic Operations Manager Joe Rosenlund says the best time to clear snow from sidewalks is soon after it falls. Shoveling snow before ice has a chance to form makes the job a lot easier. But if ice should happen to develop, there’s a right way and a wrong way to remove it.

“Rock salt (sodium chloride) is really hard on concrete,” said Rosenlund. “The chemicals that make up rock salt cause sidewalks to chip and crack and can also damage plants, so people should avoid those kinds of products. Calcium or magnesium chloride-based ‘hot melts’ are a much better option,” said Rosenlund. “Hot melts work like rock salt but melts more ice over a wider range of temperatures and won’t damage sidewalks or plants.”

Another common problem that arises with every snowfall is people shoveling snow from driveways or sidewalks out onto streets. Doing so is not only unsafe, but illegal.

“When people shovel or blow snow from their driveways or sidewalks out into the street, they create a serious hazard for drivers,” explained Rosenlund. “It’s not just a bad idea, but it’s actually against the law. Instead of putting snow from your property in the street in hopes that a plow will come by, it’s better if you pile it in your yard or somewhere else,” suggested Rosenlund. “Anywhere’s better than piling it in the road.”

Help is available for senior citizens, disabled people, or others who need assistance to remove snow and ice from sidewalks near their property by calling the Public Works Department at 575-6005.

For more information on dealing with snow and ice this winter, check out the City’s website at .

For more information about this article, contact Streets and Traffic Manager Joe Rosenlund by phone (575-6005) or by e-mail

Winter Home Fires Are Preventable

Every winter, the number of home fires increases compared to the rest of the year not only in the Yakima area but across the country as well. The Yakima Fire Department, the U.S. Fire Administration (“USFA”), and the National Fire Protection Agency (“NFPA”) encourage homeowners to follow a few simple tips that can significantly reduce fires during the coldest part of the year.

“Winter fires are largely preventable,” said Yakima Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Brandon Dorenbush. “By simply taking a common sense approach, though, these kinds of tragedies can be prevented and everyone can have a safe winter season.”

Each year, the NFPA and USFA jointly sponsor the Put a Freeze On Winter Fires campaign to help raise public awareness about how to avoid them. Some of the simple tips include:

  • Choose holiday decorations that are flame resistant or flame retardant
  • Use indoor Christmas lights inside and outside Christmas lights outdoors
  • Space heaters need space – keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away from space heaters
  • Make sure your live Christmas tree always has enough water
  • Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking or turn off the stove if you leave
  • Check electrical cords to make sure they are not cracked or damaged – if they are, throw them away
  • Don’t ever use your stove or oven to heat your house
  • Keep lit candles away from decorations and other things that can burn and blow them out when you leave the room

According to NFPA statistics, space heaters account for about one-third of winter home fires and approximately 80% of deaths caused by winter home fires. The NFPA says that cooking is the leading cause of winter residential building fires at 36%.

Data gathered by the USFA show that each winter an estimated 108,400 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries, and $1.7 billion in property loss.

For more information about the causes of winter fires, winter storm fire safety, holiday fire safety, and tips that will help prevent the incidence of fire in the home, visit the USFA website at and the NFPA website at