The terrain around Wally McCahon's home has a strong potential for wildfire.
"This is a tinder box," McCahon says of the landscape near his home off Rolling Hills Drive outside Eagle Point. "Just nothing but buckbrush, poison oak, manzanita, poison oak. A lot of poison oak. And a lot of it has grown very close to the road."
For years, McCahon has been doing what he can to clear brush and trees. But lately he's received help from firefighters, thanks to a Title 3 grant administered by Jackson County Fire District 3. Totaling $150,000, the money so far has gone toward brush thinning and clearing in the area of West Rolling Hills Drive, Brentwood Drive and Dahlia Terrace. There's still plenty to do, including the clearing and limbing of trees. Part of the grant is also for education.
"It was an area that was always a concern," says District 3 spokeswoman Ashley Lara, adding that some of the areas they have tackled are so choked with "ladder fuels" and brush that it's difficult to see and navigate.
The money for the project is available for the next two years to all Firewise communities in the fire district, which covers White City, Eagle Point, Central Point, Gold Hill, Agate Lake, Sams Valley and Dodge Bridge. Firewise neighborhoods have "taken appropriate measures to become more resistant to wildfire structural damage," according to the Firewise website.
Communities applying for grants need to maintain that resistance. That's the goal with McCahon's property and the dozen or so properties around him.
"We as neighbors see the value of maintaining access to our properties, and decent access," McCahon says. "It's the type of job that will probably never be totally done."
Fire District 3 and the Oregon Department of Forestry are overseeing another similar program. The $300,000 Western States Grant is focused on brush clearing on wildland-urban interface lands. With this program, homeowners carry out the grunt work as opposed to the contractors utilized for Title 3 projects. For every acre of land where residents clear hazardous fuels, they receive a $500 rebate. The money is also available to some residents in Fire District 3, including Eagle Point, Gold Hill and Sams Valley, but recipients don't have to be in a Firewise community.
"We have to go out there and do an inspection before they do any work," says ODF Firewise coordinator Herb Johnson.
The Western States funds are available for the next two years, but that window could be extended.
Anyone interested in more information about the Western States grant should call ODF at 541-664-3328. Those interested in more information about Title 3 funds should call Fire District 3 at 541-831-2778.
"We just really want people to partake in it. It's almost half a million dollars of grant funding, and it's all to benefit the homeowner," Lara says. "It's going to save homes. It's going to save lives."
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.