Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Southwest Oregon District
Kaitlyn Webb, Medford Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 620-1572
John O’Connor, Medford Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 621-1168
An active fire season in southwest Oregon comes as no surprise. Both smoky skies accompanied by frequent firefighter traffic are common sights. Damage of personal property and livelihood due to forest fires are also a concern—a concern that has recently been attracting more attention and the prompting of local action. Individuals are understanding the importance of defensible space around their homes as well as their neighborhoods. Firewise, a nationwide program is aiding in the promotion of this awareness and in taking steps to empower local communities to take action. There are currently 55 recognized Firewise Communities in Oregon, 6 of which have been established in 2014.
John O’Connor, a Firewise Specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry describes this program as, “Neighbors working with neighbors to help make their communities safer from wildfire.” The goal is to create communities that can survive fires through fuels reduction. Since wildfires threaten entire communities, not just a single home, it is crucial for all members to be aware of elements that increase fire potential so that these can be eliminated in order to create defensible space around homes and properties. In urban areas, fire can jump from home to home. In more rural areas, fire can feed off the flammable vegetation between properties, which means that it must be a communal effort to create safer communities.
Flames do not have to be surrounding a neighborhood for the structures and properties to be at risk. Fire-spreading embers can drift miles from the actual fire presenting a danger to surrounding residents. Wisely selecting less flammable building materials for the roof and keeping gutters and roofs clear of leaves or needles can minimize the risk of ignition from drifting embers. Elements such as untreated decks or woodpiles near a home increase vulnerability to ignition and should be mitigated.
Firewise offers a wealth of information, property assessments, possible funding for fuel reduction assistance, as well as continual support and guidance regarding the plans a community sets in place for future sustainability and improvement of defensible space.
The rewards of a proactive and fire aware community far outweigh the efforts required. Being a Firewise Community enhances the safety of your home, builds community, and provides a framework for future action. Being fire ready reduces the risk of damaged structures and property in the event of a fire.
Contact one of these Firewise Communities specialists to learn how your neighborhood can become more resilient to wildfire by becoming a Firewise Community or visit www.firewise.org
John O’Connor, Josephine County Firewise, (541) 621-1168 Bob Schumacher, Grants Pass Fire and Rescue, (541) 450-6205 Ashley Lara, Ashland Fire and Rescue, (541) 552-2231