Wildfire preparedness

Residents of Becklin Heights, a recently established Firewise community in Merlin, Ore., pose after clearing brush to reduce fire risk back before physical distancing was in effect.

The National Fire Protection Association’s Community Wildfire Preparedness Day is Saturday, May 2. This day is a call to action inviting people of all ages to plan and participate in wildfire preparedness and risk-reduction activities to make their properties and community safer, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Forestry.

This year, a dozen Oregon communities competed nationally and were each awarded $500 to assist with wildfire prevention projects for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. Although some activities may be slightly altered to adjust for physical distancing due to COVID-19, there is still much work that can be done.

For the seventh consecutive year, State Farm Insurance is providing financial support to these 12 Oregon communities, which received a total of 16 awards:

- Azalea

- Baker City

- Bend (3)

- Corvallis

- Eugene (2)

- Gold Hill

- Lapine

- Merlin

- Ontario

- Roseburg

- Sisters (2)

- Springfield

They join 134 other communities nationwide in reducing their wildfire risk and creating a safer future.

“Covid-19 has changed community dynamics and created more time at home for many Oregon residents, time that can be used to clear brush from around homes and other preparedness activities,” said National Fire Plan Coordinator Jenna Trentadue with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). “Even with physical distancing requirements in place, we can all still do our part on May 2 to be more prepared for wildfire.”

What the experts say:

“Cleaning up around the home is an excellent way to start thinking about fire prevention this summer,” says ODF’s Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “Whether it’s disposing of the yard waste created through cleanup, planning your summer camping trip, or using outdoor power equipment, be sure and exercise caution with fire or spark emitting activities.”

In light of an expected worsening of the state’s drought this summer, Keep Oregon Green (KOG), the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and Oregon Department of Forestry are working hard to spread an important prevention message about defensible space:

Kristin Babbs, KOG President and CEO, says that “Our main concern this summer is people. They are responsible for over 70% of Oregon’s wildfires. The good news is, with good defensible space, fire does not have to consume everything in its path. If a fire accidently starts on your property, it will be unlikely to spread to neighboring houses if there’s no fuel to carry the flame. The more defensible space a homeowner creates before fire season, the better a home’s chances of surviving a wildfire in the heat of summer.”

Claire McGrew, Assistant Chief Deputy at the Office of State Fire Marshal adds, “Wildfire safety starts with you. During a time when we are experiencing social distancing, this presents a good opportunity to prepare our homes, families and communities for wildfires by starting on our own property. “

Projects for Wildfire Preparedness Day can range from a few hours up to an entire day. Below are some examples of things you can do to reduce the risk of home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:

• Remove debris and dry leaves 3 to 5 feet from of a home’s foundation, and up to 30 ft. if possible.

• Keep your roof and gutters free of downed tree limbs, broken branches and leaves.

• Distribute wildfire safety information via email or website, or order free Firewise and emergency preparedness materials from the Firewise catalog or from https://www.ready.gov/plan.

• Join forces with neighbors and pool your resources to pay for a chipper service or large debris bin to remove slash.

• Make a map of the community and indicate where elderly and people with animals are located, who may need more help during an emergency, and assign community members to assist them.

Find additional project ideas and learn more about the national Community Wildfire Preparedness Day event on May 2 by visiting the NFPA website: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/National-Wildfire-Community-Preparedness-Day?icid=W059

For additional information on how to participate in Wildfire Preparedness activities during the COVID-19 pandemic please visit here for a message from NFPA: https://community.nfpa.org/community/fire-break/blog/2020/03/20/covid-19-and-wildfire-community-preparedness-day