As the number of communities that are a Firewise Recognized Site passes the milestone of 50, we reached out to a community to ask their thoughts on the program. Leslie Allison in Sage Meadows near Sisters, shares her thoughts regarding the program impacts and how Firewise has helped bring her community together.

“Firewise USA® is a national recognition program administered through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for communities in the Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI) that have made a demonstrable commitment to reducing the risk and impact of wildfire. The Sage Meadow community in Sisters became a recognized Firewise USA® in 2017. The application process included a Community Assessment by a fire professional and the development of achievable wildfire mitigation goals in the form of an Action Plan. The annual reporting mechanism holds us accountable and allows us to update or amend those goals. Firewise USA® is a voluntary program with the aim of raising wildfire awareness and providing opportunities for community members to reduce the ever-present risk. Because there are no punitive measures, it was well received by the community. It is an “all carrots no sticks” program.

By becoming a recognized Firewise USA® community, Sage Meadow became connected to a network of national, regional and local resources dedicated to reducing the number and severity of wildfires. That network begins with NFPA and extends down to Deschutes County Project Wildfire and the Sisters/Camp Sherman Fire Department. Thanks to Firewise USA®, Sage Meadow has qualified for and received several grants, most through the Deschutes County Fuel Reduction Grant Program but also from federal agencies and NFPA. Grant-funded projects have included roadside pick-up of yard waste, roadside chipping of dead wood and brush, rental of a “man-lift” to remove dead and dangling limbs in the common areas, rental of centralized disposal bins for yard waste collection and most recently a subsidy to encourage removal of juniper, spruce and arborvitae bushes located within 30’ of the home. Homeowners choose the extent to which they want to participate in any project, if at all.

As part of the Firewise program, we offer community education programs with speakers explaining things like the dynamics of wildfire, the concept of “defensible space”, evacuation planning for family and pets, and the introduction of fire-resistant landscape options. We have created a web-accessible spreadsheet where community members can report their individual fire mitigation activities and expenses, and quantify the amount of flammable waste they have removed from their own yards. Fire mitigation activities can be as simple as mowing the lawn or removing pine needles and pinecones near the home, or they may represent a long term investment, like replacing a wooden deck or shake roof with fire resistant materials or putting in hardscape or water features. The goal is to reduce wildfire risk without sacrificing the “woodsy” ambiance we all love.

Every year, we seek volunteers in the Sage Meadow Community to address fire risks in common areas–the Meadow, trails and roadsides. We hold these events on National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, the first Saturday in May. Every year, the number of volunteers increases and the spirit of community builds.

Those of us who live in Central Oregon choose to live surrounded by nature and wildlife. There is nothing we can do to eliminate the risk of wildfire. But through education and concerted effort, we can mitigate those risks and make our property more defensible. Firewise USA® provides a roadmap to wildfire mitigation education and resources that our at-risk communities need.”

Leslie Allison – Sage Meadows – Firewise Resident Leader

Here at Project Wildfire we would like to thank Leslie for both providing us this input, and also her and Sage Meadows commitment to fire preparedness.