Community-wide preparation for wildfires can make a significant difference in the outcome after a major event. A recent story from The Oregonian on their Oregon Live website highlighted the community of Pine Creek, where residents took the responsibility of living in a fire-prone area to heart. Many from all walks of life trained as volunteers at the local fire department. They were the first to respond to two fires that burned in close proximity to homes. Their dedication was credited with helping to save many homes.
However, it was not just the volunteer fire suppression efforts that were credited with saving lives and property, but also the Firewise program, that was embraced by residents long before the fire. In author Les Zaitz's article, Volunteers take stand between Canyon Creek wildfire and rural homes, residents and fire professionals alike testify to the value of Firewise:
“Under Firewise, neighbors band together to help each other make their homes and neighborhood more fire resistant. The prime focus is clearing flammable materials away from the homes, pruning vegetation and keeping grass well-watered. It’s not run by the government,” said Howard Geiger, who lives on Pine Creek Road and runs the Firewise effort, “It is run by the community.”
Chuck Wright, who has lived in the area for 20 years said the program is, “all about protection. Once the fire starts, it is too late to prepare.”
Roy Walker, who leads fire suppression efforts for the Malheur National Forest, believes that Firewise helped prevent destruction of homes on Pine Creek. And Irene Jerome, a forester contracted by the county to help organize Firewise neighborhoods said that the resulting survival of homes in the community is convincing other homeowners to join.
Pine Creek was recognized as a Firewise community for their efforts last year. In an article by Ms. Jerome in the Grant County Blue Mountain Eagle, Pine Creek: One of a kind, the community was credited with working hard to receive recognition as a Firewise Community long before the fire. They developed a plan and acted upon it, embracing changes that have now become a way of life. They have learned how to have a Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire this year.
Do you know what your risk is before a wildfire burns through your community? Has your community organized like this one to work together to make science-based changes to homes and their surroundings? It is easy to make these changes instead of taking chances. Check out the many success stories and simple-to-embrace information shared on the Firewise website!