Awbrey Hall to Two Bulls: Fires similar but different

Since 1990, more 'defensible space,' better communication

From Awbrey Hall to Two Bulls

BEND, Ore. - Two fires, both on Bend's Westside, both very close to town. The Awbrey Hall and Two Bulls wildfires have a lot of similarities -- but the 1990 fire sparked changes that have reduced the threat from future blazes.

The August 1990 Awbrey Hall Fire, which destroyed 22 homes, burned itself forever into Central Oregon's memory.

"Central Oregon never experienced a fire of that magnitude that was actually in the community," Tom Andrade, incident commander at the Awbrey Hall Fire, said Tuesday.

Andrade said many things have changed since then, largely because of the fire.

"We've learned some hard lessons here in Central Oregon. Each time we've learned these lessons, we've improved. We're not perfect, but we have improved," Andrade said.

One change since Awbrey Hall: improved communication between agencies. But perhaps the biggest change is the introduction and implementation of the concept of defensible space.

"It means creating a protective zone around your house to protect it in the event of a wildfire," said Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering.

Three zones provide different levels of protection. In those zones, it is important to keep flammable vegetation down to a minimum.

"It also means looking at your gutter, your roof, your vents and other areas around your home that may help to prevent a wildfire," Kettering said.

One huge difference between the fires: No homes or structures burned in the Two Bulls Fire, though thousands built since 1990 on the city's Westside were under an evacuation alert for days, and some had to leave.

As the city of Bend considers whether to expand the urban growth boundary further west, many experts warn that it is a fire prone-area.

"Fire risk is one of the things that they could consider," said Phil Chang, natural resource program administrator at the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council. "The western edge of the city is a potentially dangerous area, because of the types of vegetation, the condition of the forest right now and the prevailing wind patterns in the area."

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