A statewide fire program created by the Oregon State University Extension Service and College of Forestry is building on examples set by organizations like the Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership by expanding those efforts across the state and introducing even more education and outreach resources.
While the KLFHP has lead efforts to conduct more prescribed burns throughout Klamath and Lake counties, particularly in Chiloquin, with OSU Extensions Service’s involvement. Daniel Leavelle, Extension forest agent for Klamath and Lake counties, said they can also prioritize education and outreach across the state. Leavelle said this could take the form of fire safety workshops and fire science literature incorporated into state schools’ environmental curriculum.
Showing the way
He said Klamath and Lake counties have served as examples for the statewide program.
“In the meantime, Oregon State University Extension, through the College of Forestry, took that example of success, that proof of concept, and incorporated it into, because fire risk was so reduced and first health was so much better improved and all of the other benefits, the College of Forestry extension put together a fire program initiative that looked at the proof of concept in Klamath and Lake County and added education and outreach that a university can do within the extension infrastructure throughout the state.”
The program also calls for the hiring of six fire agents places across the state in areas they consider to be of greatest priority and risk, although Leavelle said they’re working on creating those placements now.
Those six fire agents would “increase the education outreach for fire and develop partnerships and support existing partnerships, develop new ones, and try to replicate what the success was in Klamath and Lake County,” he said.
“So yes, Klamath and Lake County is the leader in having succeeded with these big, cross-boundary, public/private landscape efforts and getting work done of the ground.”
Leavelle said they hope to have those agents hired around June.
Measure of success
While he said they can measure the success of the program through the number of acres treated in a safe and good way and the number of jobs the program creates, he hopes he never sees the day they might see the ultimate indicator of success: how the state fares in the instance of a fire catastrophe.
“A measure of success will be more acres treated with good science, healthier ecosystems being produced and benefits to communities, people put to work, and economies being better, if we are successful, we will see that,” he said. “Now the true bottom line measure of success for this program, honestly I hope I never see. Because the true measure of success for this program is that lives will be saved, homes will be saved, but it takes a calamity to test that out, and I hope never to see a calamity anywhere.”
The education aspect of the program hopes to touch on four key areas, Leavelle said, fire safety in the home, around the home, in the landscape and changing people’s mindsets about fire.
“We want to make that kind of a difference all over the state, in as much of an area as we possibly can because the urgency is there,” he said.
Leavelle also said the program has been largely funded by the state legislature.
“For the first time in my career — and I’ve been with fire for a little over 50 years now — money has been put proactively up front, not during and not after. So the Oregon State Legislature and our sponsors are really concerned and they want to do right by this for the people and for the state.”
In taking care of the landscape, they hope to see the benefits throughout communities across the state.
“What we’re hoping to do is break down the barriers, break down the walls, work together, all of us, to accomplish what all of us want to do, and that’s making a healthier forest and healthier range land and healthier resources and benefiting our communities and benefiting the economies of these communities.”
Already in place
He acknowledged a lot of the progress and resources are already in place. The program aims to take the foundation laid to a statewide level.
“We are seeing results. But if this program is successful and the partnership building is successful and we put it in place, hopefully the success that is already there will be magnified and cover more area,” Leavelle said. “And we want to assist that, encourage that, support that, create that.”
Partnership was Leavelle’s key word and he said partnerships are a crucial component for the program working.
“I really want to thank all of the good partners that I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with, in the Klamath Lake Forrest Health Partnership, in the Oregon State University Extension and the Oregon State University College of Forestry. I’ve worked with some really high caliber folks at all of those levels.”