BEND, OR -- Several local neighborhoods plan events this weekend, to help residents prepare for wildfire season and take advantage of free yard debris disposal opportunities. Jodie Barram, with Project Wildfire, expects this year’s Deschutes County Fire Free collection events to be more popular than in the past. "In Jefferson County, last weekend, just on the first day of their Fire Free yard debris/recycling, they saw a 30% increase in the quantity, from last year." She thinks the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise last fall, is a big reason, "Even though we’ve had a lot of fire on our landscape, I think the loss of homes and devastation that occurred in the California fires has really struck a chord with residents here, in Central Oregon."
There are about 30 Deschutes County neighborhoods designated as FireWise sites and many will host preparedness days, to coincide with Fire Free, which begins Saturday at the Knott Landfill. Barram says the preparedness events are a great way for neighbors to help each other create defensible space, "We really want folks to have what we call a ‘hardened area’ within the first five feet from their structure. And then from five feet to 30’ from their structure, just making sure that we have those fuels broken up – that we don’t have tall bushes underneath low-hanging branches where, if fire got in there, it would travel up and, what we call, be a ‘ladder fuel’ to go up into that tree."
One FireWise neighborhood is even getting teens involved in the clean-up effort, "REALMS High School has been doing some curriculum around wildfire and fuels reduction," Barram tells KBND News, "So, we have some students from REALMS High School going out to Tillicum Village to do some volunteer work as an application of their curriculum, and working with the residents, side by side, to prepare for the Fire Free days." Barram says that, aside from helping each other out, the volunteer hours help FireWise communities maintain their standing with the national FireWise USA organization.
Yard debris can be dropped off for free at the Knott Landfill, May 4-12, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Also in Bend, Fire Free has a new Westside collection site west of Miller Elementary, at Skyliners Road and Crossing Drive. That site is available May 4-5 and May 11-12, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. And, the Sunriver Compost Site is open Friday and Saturday (May 3-4), from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit the Fire Free website for a schedule of events in Redmond and Sisters, later this month.