The National Firewise Communities Program is a multi-agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, developers and others to protect people, property and natural resources from the risk of wildfires— before a fire starts. The program emphasizes community responsibility.
Wildfires have been in the news lately with the Medford and Ashland fires. The Upper Rogue is also prime terrain for wildfires with its many trees. Shady Cove is especially in danger with urban population densities and no municipal water system.
Paula Trudeau, a career employee of the U.S. Forest Service since 1977 and respected leader of the FD4 Support Group was familiar with the Firewise program through her work. And she had a long time aspiration to see this program enacted in the Upper Rogue, she explained.
In June she assembled members of community organizations and held the first meeting of Firewise. Although there is no official board, Trudeau is the accepted leader because of her knowledge gained from her work experience.
As a Silviculturist in the forest service, Trudeau is part of a management team that travels around the nation to disasters. Not only was the team sent to the half-million acre Biscuit Fire in 2002, they worked in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11and were on the scene of the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery in 2003. Trudeau says, “I never know what I’ll do from one year to the next.”
With support from the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Firewise group has met regularly since June and has made progress towards the goal of making Shady Cove a Firewise community, said Trudeau. In the near future, the Firewise board will begin working with Shady Cove residents to achieve Firewise designation.
There are many steps in achieving this designation, said Trudeau. Making properties fire resistant is the key to safety of human and animal lives and property. Stacking firewood 30 feet from a house; not storing combustible materials under a deck; removing all combustible vegetation 30-feet from structures; removing dead parts of trees and removing branches within 15-feet of chimneys are just some of the items on a checklist.
Applicable to Shady Cove is a guide for emergency water sources including: a cooperative emergency storage tank with neighbors; a minimum supply of 2,500 gallons for a property and a community water/hydrant system. All emergency water sources should be clearly marked and offer easy access to that source for firefighters. Homeowners with wells should have emergency generators.
There are also guides for developers, community associations and landscapers to follow, all geared towards safety.
The Firewise group has about a dozen members, said Trudeau. Among them are Fire District 4 Chief Bob Miller, Brian Ballou of Oregon Department of Forestry, a representative from the U.S. Forest Service (not Trudeau), Shady Cove Mayor Ron Holthusen and his wife Cheryl, Upper Rogue Watershed Coordinator Pete Mazzini, Dee Hawkins and Steve Hauck of the Upper Rogue Community Center. “There is good representation from the whole community,” said Cheryl Holthusen who added she is impressed with Trudeau’s leadership.
The FD4 open house on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. will give residents a chance to talk with Firewise board members and get safety information and Firewise brochures. Extensive information is also available at (www.firewise.org). The fire station is at 21200 Highway 62, Shady Cove.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent