Fire Alert

DRW earns 'Firewise Communities' recognition

Residents cleaning up to cut risk of dangerous wildfires

BEND, Ore. - Because of its efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire, Deschutes River Woods, with assistance from volunteers of the rural subdivision's neighborhood association, has earned Firewise Communities/USA® recognition from the National Firewise Communities Program.

"This award is the culmination of 10-plus years of effort on the part of DRW residents to improve the health of the forest we live in, and at the same time reduce the probability of catastrophic loss from the next wildfire event in our area," said Misha Williams, DRWNA president.

"Many long-time residents still remember the (1990) Awbrey Hall fire's devastating effects in DRW and don't want to see that repeated, so they are taking measures to create defensible space around their homes and by volunteering for Firewise events in their neighborhood." Williams said.

Deschutes River Woods worked with Stuart ‘Stu' Otto, stewardship forester with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, to conduct a wildfire hazard assessment and develop a plan to address safety concerns. Residents then worked together to implement the plan.

"It is vitally important that communities take an active role in addressing Wildfire concerns in their neighborhoods," Otto said.

"Wildfire protection agencies, rural fire protection districts and city fire departments do not have enough resources to be at every house during a wildfire emergency. Homeowners, by reducing the flammable vegetation around their homes can make a significant difference in protecting their homes and community infrastructure," he added.

"We have learned from the past that quick-moving wildfires can threaten a large number of residences in a short amount of time, said Deschutes County Forester Ed Keith. "It is possible that there will not be enough first responders to protect every home."

"Creating defensible space and preparing your property for fire season helps protect homes and provides a level of safety for firefighters, should they need to respond to a wildfire. That is why it is so important that communities such as Deschutes River Woods participate in the Firewise Communities program. I applaud the residents of Deschutes River Woods for being recognized as a Firewise Community," Keith added.

Deschutes River Woods is one of 39 communities in Oregon to be recognized as Firewise Communities/USA, joining many other communities nationwide that have been recognized since the program's inception in 2002.

To receive Firewise Communities/USA recognition, DRW met a rigorous set of requirements. The community completed the following activities:

--Worked with local fire and/or forestry agencies to remove flammable vegetation from around their homes and other neighborhood structures.

--Held a fair or informational event during which Firewise information was distributed.

--Conducted numerous community meetings and open houses to explain and educate the community about the Firewise Communities plan.

--Completed several ‘sweat-equity' defensible space grant projects that helped residents dispose of tons of woody debris at no charge.

--Created a ‘Firewise Demonstration Lot' at the corner of Baker and Cinder Butte roads with before/during/after pictures and video of the project posted on the neighborhood association's website.

"Achieving Firewise recognition is not a quick or easy process. Deschutes River Woods has done an outstanding job of creating a local Firewise Task Force and
implementing Firewise principles," said Michele Steinberg, support manager of the Firewise Communities program.

"By preparing homes, structures, and landscapes before a wildfire occurs, Deschutes River Woods has dramatically increased the chance that homes and structures will be protected when a wildfire occurs," she said.

Working through the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), state forestry agencies support the Firewise Communities/USA recognition effort. The program is a nationwide initiative that recognizes communities for taking action to protect people and properties from the risk of fire in the wildland/urban interface.

This program is of special interest to small communities and neighborhood associations that are willing to mitigate against wildfire by adopting and  implementing programs tailored to their needs. The communities create the programs themselves with cooperative assistance from state forestry agencies and local fire staff.

Fire-prone communities can work with local professionals to earn Firewise Communities/USA status by meeting the following criteria:

--Enlist a wildland/urban interface specialist to complete a community assessment and create a plan that identifies agreed-upon achievable solutions to be implemented by the community.

--Sponsor a local Firewise Task Force Committee, Commission or Department, which maintains the Firewise Communities/USA program and tracks its progress or status.

--Observe a Firewise Communities/USA Day annually, dedicated to a local Firewise project.

--Invest a minimum of $2.00 per capita annually in local Firewise projects. (Work by municipal employees or volunteers using municipal and other equipment can be included, as can state/federal grants dedicated to that purpose.)

--Submit an annual report to Firewise Communities/USA that documents continuing compliance with the program.

Communities interested in earning recognition may visit for more information.

Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program is part of the National Fire Protection Association, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169. For more  information visit

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