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September 16, 2013 Previous day Next day

A fire adapted community takes responsibility for its wildfire risk.  Actions address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses, infrastructure, forests, parks, open spaces and other community assets. The more actions a community takes, the more fire adapted it becomes.

In Bend and other communities in Deschutes County, people are taking action to make their community and neighborhoods more wildfire resilient.  To this end a shared vision between community members and professionals on how to to manage the lower elevation dry forests in the county is taking hold. 

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project  is working to create a fire and insect resilient forest.  The primary goal is to 'set the clock back' to the pre-european settlement conditions when the forest naturally took care of itself.  In this more natural state, the pines were large and had plenty of space to grow and thrive.  In this natural state the forest floor had less tree litter and ladder fuels because of the more frequent, less intense fires.  With the ecological function of fire restored, the hope is that the frequency of catastrophic forest stand replacement fires and the threat to the built environment will be significantly reduced.

Two historically adversarial groups - loggers and environmentalists are using science and technology to achieve common goals and solutions.   Through partnership building and collaborative planning both groups are now beginning to work on common objectives like healthy forests and sustainable communities.


This recent city of Bend news story is symbolic in that it demonstrates how these central Oregon communities are working together to create a more fire adapted community through collaborative efforts in ecological restoration.

As one of my friends from the great state of Montana once said, “Loggers once took the best and left the rest, and now the industry will take the rest and leave the best”.  The logging industry is an important part of the solution, they have the tools.  With good stewardship, trust and collaboration, forests will become more fire resilient, communities will become more fire adapted, fire fighters will be safer and suppression costs will be lower. 

It may take decades to resolve the issues that humans have created, but programs like NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA, Fire Adapted Communities, Deschutes County Project Wildfire and Deschutes Collaborative Forest program is a good start.

Stephen PyneStephen Pyne, one of the world's leading experts on the environmental history of fire, offered his opinions on the U.S. approach to wildfire in a recent Op-Ed in The Washington Post. His stance is a response to some of this year's biggest fires, including the Black Forest Fire in Colorado and California's Fire, and the ever-present challenges of living in the wildland/urban interface.

"Today, the issue is no longer just ill-sited McMansions but a giant retrofit for 30 years of irrationally exuberant sprawl," states Pyne. "The National Association of State Foresters estimates that more than 72,000 communities are at risk and only 20 percent have a plan for protection.

"We know how to keep houses from burning. And we should know that if we build houses in the fire equivalent of a flood plain or a barrier island, the primary responsibility for protecting them is ours."

Learn how to fire-adapt your community, and read more about Pyne in an interview NFPA Journal conducted with him on America's complex relationship with fire.

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