City of Bend Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Susie Maniscalco teamed up with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to conduct a wildfire safety workshop for local homeowners and fire agency folks to better understand what risk homeowners and first responders will face this coming summer, and how to take action now to minimize the consequences of uncontrolled wildfire.
This workshop was planned to kick off the 16thAnnual FireFree Events to take place in April and May where fire agencies target homeowners and their neighborhoods to reduce their vegetation and fuels on their property before the smoke from wildfire is in the air.
The Flagship FireFree Program is now sponsored by the Deschutes County FireSafe Council called “Project Wildfire.” This event allows residents to start working in their yard and cleaning their roofs and gutters. All citizens are allowed to take their vegetation debris to local reception sites in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties at no cost to the homeowner. Each year the collection sites gather more than 30,000 cubic yards of debris.
ODF Instructor Tom Andrade did an outstanding job of keeping the workshop participants engaged by explaining the history of wildfire and what a “natural” and a “healthy” forest actually are. Tom also explained the fire science with help of the USDA Research Scientist Jack Cohen’s publications and NFPA’s video productionsof how it is the little things around the home that can spread a wildfire to the home, and not the big flame front that the media often portrays. Tom also explained Oregon’s 1997 SB 360 Legislation that requires property owners in ODF protected areas to reduce personal risk.
Kris Babbs, ODF’s National Fire Plan Coordinator and Oregon’s Firewise Liaison presented how theFirewise Communities/USA Recognition Program can be incorporated into every neighborhood using the FireFree event as their annual Firewise Day. Kris showed how the whole neighborhood can get involved with wildfire safety and instead of a row of homes becoming a statistic from a wildfire how they can become an actual fuel break usingFirewise principals to slow or actually stop the fire. Kris said “a home can be in multiple Home Ignition Zones and we can slow the fire by changing the fuel component,” “this is why it is important to get your neighbors involved with Firewise”.
After lunch Tom finished his presentation with a field trip local to a neighborhood to put the classroom knowledge into practical application. Participants then can used classroom knowledge and applied it with a “hands-on” approach to give them confidence when conducting their home or neighborhood Firewise assessment.
Now is the time to take action, before the smoke is in the air. What action you take today may save your home tomorrow!