Fire officials urge homeowners to go on defensive

When it comes to protecting your home against wildfire, there's no time like the present to get started.

Area fire officials urge property owners to waste no time in creating a "defensible space" around their house and other structures, which involves clearing brush within a radius of at least 30 feet so wildland-urban interface fires will be less of a threat.

Wildfire preventing grants available

Grants of up to $500 are available to help Ashland residents remove highly flammable plants near their homes, creating a defensible space against wildfires.

The grants are for residents inside city limits who did not participate in prior years.

Residents must receive an assessment to qualify, which includes site-specific recommendations for creating appropriate defensible space around houses and other structures.

They will be reimbursed for removing fire-prone trees, providing roof and chimney clearance from overhanging branches, and trimming limbs on lower branches to reduce the likelihood of fire climbing upward to the higher branches. In addition, highly flammable plants such as juniper, cypress and other conifers must be removed.

Work must be completed by December for property owners to be eligible for reimbursement. Owners and paid contractors can remove the brush and hazardous vegetation.

The money comes from U.S. Forest Service biomass funds, distributed by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

For more information, contact Ali True at 541-552-2231.

— Ryan Pfeil

"You don't want to get behind the 8-ball on this," said Brandon Mitchell, rural battalion chief for Jackson County Fire District No. 3. "Living in a rural community, there comes a little bit of self-reliance."

This includes clearing plants such as juniper, cypress and other conifers, clearing debris from roofs and gutters, and making sure trees don't hang over the house. In addition, make sure grass is cut short through summer and ensure the three feet closest to the house are clear of combustibles, such as bark mulch.

Mitchell said homeowners usually respond positively to the advice when they hear it.

"We're able to measure our rural prevention efforts and make sure it's been effective, and it has been effective," Mitchell said.

Jackson County has a high risk for wildfires because of slope, topography and the abundance of natural resources. Also, summers are hot here, among the hottest in the state, resulting in dry brush that spurs wildfires on, especially with winds that can push a fire along.

"All of those conditions can make a small fire spread very quickly," said Ali True, Ashland Fire & Rescue Firewise Communities coordinator. "One small fire can impact many homes in a very short amount of time."

The importance of brush clearing was illustrated by the 2011 Oak Knoll fire in Ashland, which destroyed 16 acres and 11 houses.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or

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