GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A sign overlooks a ravine at the edge of the Forest Hills neighborhood, bearing two smiley faces and a friendly reminder to “please have a fire safe day.”
“No snow in the mountains, no rain except for today… It’s really kind of scary,” said resident Ruth Lambert, a member of the community’s Firewise Committee.
Thanks to efforts from the Firewise Committee, Forest Hills is now one of 20 neighborhoods nationwide to win the Firewise Community Award.
The award gives $500 to communities that demonstrate the best fire prevention plan, something local firefighters say will make their job easier come summer.
“We need to do everything we can to protect our houses and give the firefighters a chance to put out the actual fire,” said Bob Schumacher, a Community Firewise Coordinator with the Grants Pass Fire and Rescue.
The Oregon Department of Forestry says that goal is particularly important in Josephine County, which, according to the department’s risk assessment data, has upwards of 20,000 homes bordering fire-prone wild lands.
“It’s not just having flames licking at the back door, it’s having an ash cloud going over your neighborhood and dropping all kinds of live embers around where the homes are,” said ODF Fire Prevention Specialist Brian Ballou.
Ballou says when well-protected, those homes can become a line of defense between a fire and an urban area.
And while $500 may not seem like a fortune, residents of forest hills say it’s a big step in turning those plots of forage and broken limbs into a dead zone for fire.
“I see the potential for fire being real for years to come,” said Lambert. “This is a good starting point for us.”