1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Ashland, Oregon

Ashland, Oregon has had a long history with wildfire, which dates all the way back to 1910. After receiving its first Firewise Communities/USA® recognition award in Oak Knoll Meadows in 2011, Ashland has now has 12 neighborhoods that are recognized Firewise sites. Though Ashland is much smaller than most other Firewise communities, their efforts to reduce the risk of wildfire in their area have made them a prominent example of how any community can be Firewise through a little effort.

Ashland, OregonAshland, Oregon brings a unique approach to Firewise in that it is a small city with a population of approximately 20,000 where there are very few new neighborhoods under development. Many of the neighborhoods have been in existence for decades, constructed when building codes did not reflect Firewise principles. Homes also tend to be on smaller lots than in most Firewise communities, usually only a quarter-acre or less.

“There is a long history of wildfire in Ashland, dating back to about 1910,” said Ali True, Firewise Communities Coordinator for Ashland, who works with each of the neighborhoods, as she also spreads the word citywide about the benefits of adopting Firewise practices. True credits fire chief John Karns with introducing Firewise when he came to Ashland from Beverly Hills, where they had a Firewise program.

“We’d had two recent fires, the Siskiyou Fire in 2009 and the Oak Knoll Fire in 2010, both of which got peoples’ attention. While the Siskiyou Fire was outside the city limits, it created a big smoke column that impacted the city and led to the evacuation of nearby Ashland neighborhoods, and the Oak Knoll Fire took 11 homes in a neighborhood outside of the designated Wildfire Hazard Zone,” said Karns.

During Firewise week in May, the first annual citywide Firewise cleanup day will be held, and stories about the recognition program in the local media will inform residents throughout Ashland about Firewise. Poster contests are held in local schools and information about Firewise is introduced to the younger children as part of their fourth-grade curriculum.

“The program also offers the neighborhood approach,” said True, “so people can work together to achieve meaningful defensible space in our urban environment.” A local Southern Oregon University student is also planning a Firewise 5K race to promote local awareness.

True also works with the Oregon Department of Forestry to provide prevention education, and review and administer grants. Current grants support the removal of fire prone vegetation from one’s property. In addition, the Loval parks staff does fuels-removal work in city parklands, while also supporting the efforts of homeowners by using wood chips on playgrounds in the parks, created from vegetation removed during neighborhood cleanups.

True notes, “We’re using the small neighborhood approach, going through our five-step process and developing a social network that we hope will ultimately reach all residents of Ashland. Over time, we hope that all of Ashland will be Firewise.”