What do Firewise communities and a good cup of coffee have in common? Two Firewise Community stories from two different states, share a common theme, about how engaging in Firewise activities can help to not only increase awareness of wildfire safety activities that individual property owners can engage in but also encourage residents to take action to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfire. These ongoing efforts encourage a sense of community where neighbors begin to help each other and look out for each other. As shared with us this sense of community is not something that can be quantified but like good coffee, it is measured by being enthusiastically savored.
Mt. Reuben at Glendale, Oregon
Mt Reuben held a Firewise workday on Firewise Day. Eight community members and one Douglas Forest Protective
Association (DFPA) employee worked together to help one landowner clear overgrown brush and tree limbs along his driveway. The Mt. Reuben Firewise Committee is committed to having at least one community workday quarterly to improve the fire resistance and survivability of the community. Individual community members have been working to improve their individual properties. But when someone needs assistance, the community gets together to provide assistance.
Mt. Reuben says, “Firewise Day included a lot of work, and a wonderful experience. The work we are doing to become safer after the Douglas Complex forest fire is critical to our neighborhood. But the increased sense of community is not something that can be quantified. Like good coffee, it is measured by being enthusiastically savored.”
Ryderwood conducts a “Firewise Expo” each year, when the Firewise Board, the local volunteer fire chief and firefighters meet with the community to discuss the importance of defensible space, reducing fuels, and preparing for wildfire. They serve free coffee and cookies, answer questions, hand out Firewise literature and trash bags. In the Fall, the community also holds an annual clean-up day when the neighbors work together to clear brush, trim trees and rake leaves around buildings. The group pays for a chipper service to dispose of slash and branches. Debris that cannot be chipped is hauled away. When the work is done, the group enjoys a potluck lunch together. A dumpster is located in the city park during the year, available to residents for yard debris waste disposal.
Ryderwood shared with us, “Our annual Firewise Expos and clean-up have brought our residents to a new awareness of what they can do to help mitigate the danger of wildfire destroying our little town. Each year at our Expo, I hear more insightful questions, and the citizens are able to meet with their firefighters to establish a feeling of partnership in defense of our town. We find more and more that people are taking precautions, and are aware of the fuel load that is on their property. Five years ago, when we started Firewise, I could drive down alleyways, and see stacks of building material, firewood, tall grass and weeds. Now that‘s the exception, rather than the rule. Our folks have become regular dynamos at raking around their homes, planting fire-resistant plants, and taking on their elderly neighbor’s maintenance. People who normally do not interact with others come out for Firewise clean-up and visit our Expo. Some new people who have moved to town have met their neighbors, and formed friendships at the Expo and the clean-up.”