Current situation

Widespread rain and unseasonably cool temperatures in Oregon have dampened existing fires and prevented new ones, easing the strain on firefighting resources. At the same time, wet conditions are making it harder on firefighters trying to remove equipment and repair the impacts from suppression efforts. In steep areas that burned earlier this summer, mudflows, rockslides and fire-weakened trees falling are concerns.






















Saturday, August 22, 2015

Potlucks and sparkplugs: Firewise success catches on in Upper Cow Creek

Southern Oregon is wildfire country. In the last five years about one-third of the 325,000-acre Tiller Ranger District has been blackened by wildfire. This year, the Stouts Creek Fire has already burned over 25,000 and was 82 percent contained on August 22, 2015. Locals here know about living with wildfire. They have learned that adapting to wildfire means getting to know your neighbors and that potlucks are the perfect place talk about being a fire-adapted community.

 When the Stouts Creek Fire was threatening homes east of the community of Azalea, fire managers were pleased to learn that Milo, Tiller, and Upper Cow Creek Road were designated FireWise Communities. Being Firewise means homeowners have taken significant steps to make their homes defensible from a wildfire. After several years of hard work, 14 homes and several roads including Upper Cow Creek Rd have defensible space and have joined the dozen other recognized FireWise communities in Douglas County.

The maxim of many hands makes light work applies. Grant resources, program support and technical assistance came from the Douglas Forest Protective Association, the Umpqua National Forest, Douglas County Public Works, the Phoenix Charter School and others. At the grassroots level, neighbors did not just come together on their own. There was a spark, a catalyst, someone who overcame the inertia and fostered change. That person was Kathy Staley of Upper Cow Creek Rd.

 “The Umpqua National Forest is part of our community,” said Kathy Staley. “Donna Owens, Tiller District Ranger, made it easy for us. We hold regular potlucks and Donna and her staff began attending. As we got to know one another we naturally broadened our circle of care to include those who work for the Forest Service,” she explained. 

 “Prior to these gatherings, the relationship with the Umpqua NF was often adversarial. It helped that Ranger Owens was willing to say the tough but honest things,” Staley said. “That built trust in the eyes of the community members.”

Clearly motivated, Kathy explained that her career as an engineering inspector gave her a sharp and critical eye.

“I saw a need,” she explained. “I’m relatively new to the community. We learned that there were grants available to help pay for removing the brush and small trees to make our homes safer from wildfire,” she said. The grant funds and other monies helped pay for road crews removing roadside brush.
 
“Red Apple Road used to be tight with brush,” explained Kathy Pack of Upper Cow Creek Road. “It made me nervous thinking about driving it during a wildfire. Getting the roads and houses cleared of brush out really gave me piece of mind,” she said.

Once the neighbors learned that they could meet their commitment by contributing their time, the idea spread like creamy peanut butter. Using the county’s road crew and students from the Phoenix Charter School, they were able conduct defensible space activities at more than a dozen homes—removing brush and small trees and pruning up the branches on larger trees to make the homes safer from wildfire.

“We’ve owned this piece of land for 30 years,” said Jim Pack. “I planted all the trees myself and each one has a name. This place is a dream come true for me. Making it safer from wildfire was just something we had to do. We have too much at stake to live with the risk of it burning.”

Just as local residents gave their time, staff from the Tiller Ranger District understood they had to do the same. “The relationship building just took time,” said Terry Brown, Fire Management Officer, Tiller Ranger District. “The relationships we have with the community are the most valuable results from this process.”

The Douglas Forest Protective Association formed the third leg of the FireWise triangle. FireWise Coordinator Dennis Sifford advises communities on becoming FireWise.

“The program helps make homeowners aware of the risks and teaches them about the little things they can do to help their homes survive a wildfire,” said Dennis.

Wildfire is a frequent visitor to southern Oregon. Building resilience and adapting to wildfire depends on knowing your neighbors, widening the circle of care and finding the catalysts in the community who can make things happen. In these Firewise communities, these grass roots efforts have clearly paid off.

“When I learned that the residents of Upper Cow Creek Road were designated FireWise, I was more confident that we could protect the homes and that our firefighters would come home safely,” explained Steve Bowen, Structural Liaison for the Stouts Creek Fire.

Contacts:
Marcus Kauffman, ODF, Stouts Creek Fire Information:  541-825-3724; Cell: 206-402-7175
Kyle Reed, DFPA, 541-672-6507 X 136          Cell: 541-817-7186
 
 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a question/comment about this season's wildfire activity on the 16 million acres of private and public forestlands that the Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects from wildfire? Let us know. Please keep your remarks civil and free of profanity.

Comments and questions

The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments you have about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity. You are also welcome to contact us by email at: information@odf.state.or.us.

Current wildfire info

Cool, wet weather in the winter of 2016-17 ended Oregon's long drought and left a thick snowpack at higher elevations which will take some time to melt. However, even in non-drought years Oregon's warm, dry summers create conditions that allow for fire to start and spread. In an average summer firefighters still see almost a thousand fires on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.



What we do

Protection jurisdiction

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.



Fire suppression policy

The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.





Followers

About Me

My photo
Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.