Wyden visits Bend forest, talks wildfire prevention

Senator tours collaboration effort in Deschutes National Forest

POSTED: 8:10 PM PDT August 26, 2013    UPDATED: 11:52 AM PDT August 27, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Visiting a forest project west of Bend on Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he wants to see a change, when it comes to fighting wildfires.

His solution: Prevent, so you don't have to fight. But we're in a downward spiral of funding.
 
"The bureaucracy then takes money from the prevention fund to put the fire out and the problem gets worse because the cycle repeats itself," Wyden said.

It's a cycle forest officials want to change, as more fires burn bigger and hotter.

"I've been out on several fires this year, and the enormity of the fires this year, and it's not even out worst year," said Joe Stutler, Deschutes County forester.

Stutler says fire season now starts earlier and ends later. And there's no such thing as fire season any more. It's becoming a year-round reality.

"Things have changed -- you can call it climate change, I'm not sure what it is, fuel buildups, suppression. The fact is, it's all of that," Stutler said.

Neighbors like Dick Ridenour know that living in the middle of the forest comes with a fire risk, but not if he can help prevent it.

"We have yearly fire meetings in the neighborhood, and we invite people from the Forest Service and the county and people from the forest prevention to come and give presentations," he said.

Ridenour and his fellow neighbors, the Schulzes, support the Forest Services 193-acre thinning project off Skyliners Road.

"Wildfire is always in the back of my mind this time of year, and it's nice there has been some precautions taken to cut down the chances of that happening," said Mark Schulz.

And it's the local collaboration between neighbors, the Forest Service and many others, the senator wants to use as an example for Congress.

"This is the chance to take the Oregon story back to Washington and say, 'Look at that great collaborative effort in Central Oregon -- let's make sure that federal policy has changed so the federal government in Oregon and elsewhere can do more of the work we are seeing here on the ground at the Deschutes,'" Wyden said.