This has been a devastating, tragic month for the Rogue Valley and the state of Oregon. I know that members of our local small woodlands community have been or continue to be directly affected by the Almeda, Obenchain, and Slater fires, as have many of our friends, colleagues and neighbors. There has been loss of life and thousands of homes and structures burned to the ground, including over 2,300 housing units in the Almeda fire alone. And as of this writing, there are several large wildfires around the state that are still burning. For those still threatened by the fires we hope for your safety and the protection of your homes and properties; for those who have lost so much our hearts go out to you. For firefighters and other first responders, thank you for your dedication and service.
Last week, the Jackson Josephine Small Woodlands Association and OSU Extension held a webinar on Community and Landowner Wildfire Preparedness with Chris Chambers, Wildfire Division Chief, Ashland Fire and Rescue. Chris helped fight the Almeda fire and told a dramatic and compelling story about the fire, with important insights for home and neighborhood fire protection. A recording of the webinar is available on the Past Events page on this website.
The OSU Extension Service is working with partners on statewide basis to develop webinars and online tools for landowners affected by the fires. This is an outgrowth of the new Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Fire Program. This program will soon deploy regional fire specialists around Oregon, including one based here at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. More on that soon.
Locally, the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District has convened several agencies and organization to identify resources, assess damages, and develop plans to assist agricultural and forest producers affected by the fires. Meanwhile, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments is spearheading an effort to restore the Bear Creek Greenway that will no doubt include consideration of future fire potential.
On a personal note, my family’s home in Phoenix survived the fire, but it was a close call, and many of our neighbors were not as lucky. We feel extremely fortunate – and concerned about the many, many folks in our community who lost their homes. I’m taking another look at our home ignition zone and re-thinking things like wood fending and bark dust.