BEND, OR -- A big vegetation thinning project took place Thursday in Deschutes River Woods, with three local partners: Deschutes County Rural Fire District #2, the DRW neighborhood association, and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
Fire Inspector Melissa Steele says private properties next to those forested areas with high fire risk get help thanks to combining over $400-thousand in Oregon State Fire Marshal grants. “We're all going to be taking our money, putting it together and then trying to figure out the best way to attack each specific topic when it comes to reducing fire and fuels,” Steele tells KBND News they’ve been aware of the danger in the area for a while, “We have identified Deschutes River Woods as a potential fire hazard since the late 1970s. And so now we finally have this money from Oregon State Fire Marshal and all of these agencies are working together.” Steele says another goal is getting property owners to create defensible space around homes.
COIC’s Lauren Street coordinates crews with the Heart of Oregon Corps to reduce hazardous fuels, “A lot of times we're working in the wildland-urban interface area. These are areas that are normally surrounded by the National Forest or other public lands. Anything that a prescribed burn would do, naturally, we're going in and doing it manually in areas that have too many structures to have those prescribed burns.”
“We couldn't do it without the help of Heart of Oregon. And the railroad has been a big part as well. They're going to help us with some equipment. We also have ODOT which is fantastic along highway 97 starting at Baker, heading south,” says Steele of the collaborative effort.
DRW Firewise Coordinator Greg Bryant says it’s a big job, “The Deschutes River Woods is over 2,000 lots, and each lot is almost an acre. So, we’ve got over six square miles… We’ve got 34 miles of roads that we have out here.”
Crews will continue work through the Fall on private land and the forest adjacent to Deschutes River Woods.