Firewise: Detroit, Idanha first in county to adopt fire prevention program

January, 2018 Posted in Community, Nature

Community MembersBy Mary Owen

The Firewise signs are up! Detroit and Idanha have joined the ranks of Firewise communities in Oregon, and signs revealing their status were unveiled on Dec. 8 along Highway 22.

Both North Santiam Canyon cities earned the Firewise title with the support of the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the U.S. Forest Service. Both cities are at the highest risk of wildfires in northwest Oregon and are the first communities in Marion County to receive the title of Firewise community.

“The Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire District is very proud of becoming the first Firewise communities in all of Marion County,” said Andrea Martinez, firefighter/paramedic with the Idanha-Detroit RFPD.

“Firewise is intended to be a multi-agency effort that extends past the fire service by involving community leaders, homeowners, planners and others to help protect people, property and natural resources from the risk of wildland fires before a fire starts,” she said. “It’s a process where communities develop an action plan and encourage each other to become active participants in building a safer community to live in.”

Firefighter Lew Owens said the Firewise designation fosters camaraderie and exemplifies a goal that was set and has been achieved.

“This is a significant step forward in preparing both communities for additional severe wildland fires such as the recent Whitewater fire,” Owens said. “We will continue to hold community events to keep this program in place.”

Owens credited Levi Hopkins, grant coordinator for the Oregon Department of Forestry, and Martinez with doing most of the hard work in making this status a reality.

“The North Cascade District is extremely happy to give these communities the Firewise designation,” Hopkins said. “These communities are the first in Marion County and are joining already 100-plus Firewise communities in Oregon. The Santiam Canyon area is considered an extreme wildfire hazard area, and this program will help educate community members on how they can better protect their homes and property from a wildfire.”

Hopkins said representatives from the North Cascade District of the ODF, Idanha-Detroit RFPD, and the U.S. Forest service introduced the programs to both cities at a city council meeting early last year.

“Both councils unanimously voted to move forward and become a Firewise community,” Hopkins said. “After a couple of city council meetings and a Firewise day in May, we made it happen.”

On May 6, Idanha hosted a fire prevention potluck. Agency representatives attended to answer questions about fire prevention and fuels reduction, and what to do to protect their homes from wildfires, Hopkins said.

“In Detroit, we held a debris disposal site that community members were able to bring any brush that they cleared for fuels reduction.  Brush … cleared around their homes create better defensible space,” he added. “ODF and the fire department then burned the debris pile.”

Home assessments were also offered. A representative from the agencies visited local residences to share how to better protect the homes from wildfires.

“These can actually be done for free at any time. If someone is interested (they can) contact their local ODF office,” Hopkins said. “A local community wildfire preparedness plan was also created for each community. Many countywide CWPPs have already been created and can be found online.”

Hopkins said plans are in the works to create additional Firewise communities and potentially add grants to help residents reduce fuels and create defensible space.

“If people are interested and would like to get on a waiting list, they can call their local ODF office,” he said.

“Detroit and Idanha are both planning on having their Firewise renewal day in spring or early summer. By becoming Firewise, they have also opened up the potential of future fuels reduction grant opportunities.”

To earn the Firewise title, cities must follow five steps:

• Obtain a wildfire risk assessment as a written document from its state forestry agency or fire department.

• Form a board or committee, and create an action plan.

• Conduct a “Firewise Day” event.

• Invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year.

• Create a Firewise Portal account and submit an application to the state Firewise liaison.  

Firewise USA offers both workshops and training, including online interactive training, geared toward homeowners, forestry professionals, firefighters and others on wildfire safety topics. For more information, visit www.firewise.org.

For more information, contact Martinez at 503-854-3540 or Hopkins at 503-859-4323.

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