Central Oregon

Lasting lessons learned after the B&B Complex Fire

Post-fire tours boost confidence in nearby communities

Lasting lessons learned after the B&B Complex Fire

SISTERS, Ore. - The B&B Complex fire that burned more than 90,000 acres in August 2003, was not only unprecedented in size but shed light on new ways the Forest Service could interact with people who live in the communities affected by wildfires.

"Some of the residents who had been evacuated were really wanting to see, what does a fire look like? What has it done to the places I know about?" Oregon State University professor Bruce Shindler said.

To answer those questions, the Forest Service shuttled those interested in learning about the fire on a tour. Shindler, who studies social aspects of natural resources, went along on the tour.

"We found out that absolutely the Forest Service hit a home run on this deal, just by this one event, of a tour of the B&B fire," Shindler said recently.

In talking with those who went on the tour, Shindler says for the first time, people were able to see how a fire burns and learn how treated forests react to fire.

"People are learning to live with fire. This is one of the big lesson of this," Shindler said. "54 percent, over half the people said, 'You know what? I trust the Forest Service now more than I used to.' That's a pretty big jump."

Since the first tour 10 years ago, the Forest Service has used the idea of tours of Central Oregon fire zones several times. The most notable came after last year's Pole Creek Fire near Sisters.

"People are figuring out that fire essentially is everybody's responsibility -- not just the Forest Service, but everybody who lives here," Shindler said.

Shindler added that after the tours on the Pole Creek Fire, people living in Sisters told him they feel safe, even when a wildfire is burning nearby.

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