November 23, 2020

Eugene – Springfield Fire encourages neighborhoods to become firewise

The aftermath of the 2020 Almeda Fire in Phoenix, Oregon.

Live green trees near burned-out subdivisions indicate these homes were likely ignited by fire brands, then house-to-house ignition.

“The number one susceptible part of the structure is the roof. If you could make one change, we would recommend making sure you have a noncombustible roof.”

Eugene Springfield Deputy Fire Chief Amy Linder addressed resident concerns as the community started to recover from the catastrophic Holiday Farm Fire.

Listen to the KEPW story here

“We occasionally still see wood shakes. Those can be quite flammable, especially over time as they age and wear, so be thinking about asphalt shingles or tile or metal,” Chief Linder said. “And then make sure to do your maintenance, making sure you keep the pine needles and the debris off the roof so that an ember doesn’t get in there and begin to smolder and ignite.

“Typically when a home catches fire in a moving wildfire, it’s from fire brands that are launching up to miles away from the main body of fire. So we want to look at places those fire brands can get and that’s where we want to focus our efforts. So again, they’re going to land on the roof. Let’s make sure we protect that.”

Deputy Chief Linder was excited to help neighborhoods learn how to protect their homes. Firewise education is fundamental, she said.

“Education is the #1 component for how we get ahead of this situation,” she said. “Education alone provides about a 35-1 return on investment so the more that we can educate and people understand the hazards that they’re facing the more proactive they can be on their own property. If we all take a little piece of the bigger pie, we make a lot more progress than one person trying to do the whole piece.”

The City takes a similar team effort in caring for wildland-urban interface along the Ridgeline Trail system.

“I’m going to give a huge shout-out to our Public Works Department in Eugene, particularly our Parks and Open Space Division. They actually have a robust hazardous fuel treatment program for city-owned property. We think about our Ridgeline Trail, the emerald necklace of Eugene that runs there along the ridgeline in the South Hills…they are actively treating and creating fuel breaks along the ridgeline…thinning out our tree stands, dealing with invasive species. It’s a multi-faceted goal, it’s not just about wildfire protection, though that is a part of it. We’re also concerned about habitat restoration, conservation, protecting our watersheds.”

Chief Linder encouraged neighborhoods to adopt the Firewise Communities program.

“We have a program called Firewise that is an NFPA project. The Oregon Department of Forestry is a huge supporter of that and we do have a couple of Firewise Communities in Lane County and that’s kind of a goal,” she said.

Chief Linder made the remarks at a Fire Forum sponsored by the Neighborhood Leaders Council. The forum also featured Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel and FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee.

The complete two-hour fire forum is available on YouTube in four segments:

Part 1:  Eugene / Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel

Part 2:  Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal Amy Linder   

Part 3:  FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee

Part 4:  David Monk asks audience questions

The slide presentations are also available online.