On May 6th, Peter Ribble, Deschutes County Project Impact Coordinator, Andrew Hendrickson, FEMA Community Liaison, and several thousand Bend area residents participated in the 3rd annual FireFree cleanup weekend. Peter and Andy worked with a multi-agency group to establish a defensible space around a home and participated in outreach activities at the Deschutes County Solid Waste Recycling Station.
4000 vehicles dropped off cleared recyclable material totaling nearly 11,000 cubic yards. For the 3rd year in a row, the recycling station provided free disposal for brush, branches and other combustible yard waste for area residents. Much of this material is removed "ladder fuels". Removal of ladder fuels is important as it slows fire from moving from the ground into the treetops and creating an uncontrollable wildfire. If removed or reduced in a 30' defensible zone around a structure, this single action significantly improves the chance of a structure withstanding a wildfire. Removal of ladder fuels and non-combustible roofing materials are the two most significant factors in a structure being able to survive a wildfire event.
Peter, Andy and other city, county, state, and federal volunteers assisted Frank and Roxie Smith establish a FireFree zone around their home. The Smith's moved to Bend last year. Like many area newcomers, they are learning important lessons about homeowner responsibility regarding pre-disaster actions to reduce their home's vulnerability to wildfire. The Smith home was targeted for assistance since the Woodside Ranch subdivision in which it is located is a model subdivision in terms of citizen efforts to prevent fire losses.
Back at the recycling station, staff and community volunteers assisted citizens unload their debris, provided educational information about FireFree and surveyed citizens to gather feedback. Special populations, such as the elderly, were very appreciative of the fee waiver and unloading assistance. Organized volunteers and spontaneous citizen action provided help to those needing assistance. In addition to the FireFree strategy, information was provided which included noxious weed control and other related issues. Participants were asked for feedback on event notice, prevention steps implemented and suggestions for improvement of the event to continue the yearly increase in citizen participation.
The 3rd annual Fire Free weekend was a tremendous success as both the number of participants and volume of material experienced double digit percent increases. "The FireFree message is reaching its target audience" said Charlotte Gilbride, Account Executive with the Ralston Group. The Ralston Group is a Bend area advertising and marketing firm which is helping SAFECO (Insurance) to promote the FireFree message. "We are especially pleased that the message of personal responsibility in the form of action by the residents to reduce their risk for wildfire is being heard. Now that FEMA and SAFECO are working together on FIREFREE, we can expand this effort to cover all of Deschutes County."
Deschutes County Impact Coordinator, Peter Ribble, a Captain with the Bend Fire Department and veteran on many wildland fire campaigns said "If this amount of ma...