Central Oregon's robust wildfire preparedness programs throughout the region have allowed for sustained success during our local fire seasons. The local success is the result of active collaboration by private and public agencies, entities, groups, and individuals to address the three most prevalent challenges and goals across the landscape: creating fire resilient landscapes, fostering effective wildfire response, and creating fire-adapted communities. Even with the local success, the recent devastating fires in California offers several sobering lessons for Central Oregon residents. With 1,500 homes and more than 15 lives lost, Project Wildfire takes this opportunity to remind residents about preparing themselves and their family for disasters.
With some simple steps you are able to protect your home and community from a wildfire. The only way to ensure that your property is protected is to define your defensible space. Regardless of what your neighbor has done on their property, be the example; create your defensible space. It is the individual taking responsibility for their home that can save neighborhoods. The partners of Project Wildfire emphasize that whole community approaches, such as Firewise Communities, can make a world of difference.
"Defining the defensible space around your home is the most important thing you can do to protect your home and neighborhood," says Alison Green, Program Coordinator for Project Wildfire. "Starting with your own personal preparedness and translating that to your neighbors will increase your whole community's resiliency, not only to wildfires but to all disasters."
To define your defensible space, keep grass and weeds cut low and always be prepared to respond to wildfire. With this in mind, Project Wildfire urges you to take a look around your property in the "home ignition zone" where glowing embers can ignite spot fires and vulnerable areas like decks, patios and fences that can spread flames to your home.
Where are your most vulnerable places for glowing embers to ignite your home?
- Are your gutters and roof valleys free from debris like pine needles and leaves? Clean them out. Despite a metal or asphalt shingle roof, the buildup of gutter debris provides the necessary fuel for the glowing embers to ignite adjacent fascia boards or siding – most often made of wood.
- Do your shrubs and weeds provide a path of fuel for a fire to reach your trees or home? Reduce shrubs and other "ladder fuels" around your home to reduce the threat of ground fires igniting nearby trees, or your home.
- What can catch fire on your deck or patio or near your fence? Remove weeds, shrubs or any combustible materials from around, under or on top of your deck, patio or wood fence. This includes toys, planters, construction materials, furniture and cushions along with even small piles of pine needles or leaves.
- Is your wood pile near your home or other combustible vegetation? Move wood piles at least 20 feet away from your home or other combustibles.
Being prepared for an evacuation is also critical to your family's survival in disasters. Making sure you have your 5 P's: People, Pets, Pills, Photos, important Papers, and your 72-hour kit ready to go. Keep these things in a spot in your home that is easily accessed so you can leave in a hurry.
"Evacuations rarely ever happen when we are all at home and ready for them to occur," says Green. "When a disaster strikes, it could be 3 am when your whole family is asleep or during the workday. An ounce of evacuation planning can save your family from a true disaster."
With the long fire season behind us, it's a hard ask of residents to maintain their vigilance. With the arrival of fall weather, our fire risk has eased but it hasn't disappeared altogether; stay aware of the local conditions and/or restrictions in your area. Even with many fire districts opening burn season, residents need to call their local fire district to ensure the district is allowing burning at this time, that it is a burn day, and to obtain any necessary permits.
For more information on Firewise visit www.firewise.org. For more information on Project Wildfire visit www.projectwildfire.org or call 541.322.7129.
For information on local FireFree events visit www.firefree.org.