April 14, 2023 Public Meeting Minutes

Kevin Moriarty, Deschutes County Forester, and Corinne Heiner, Deschutes County Fire Adapted Communities Coordinator presented an overview of forest conditions in South Deschutes County and property owner assistance for wildfire mitigation.

Residents are welcome to attend monthly Project Wildfire meetings on third Thursdays at 8:00 – 9:30 AM at the Deschutes County building, 1300 NW Wall St., Bend. Recent meeting topics were SB 762 defensible space standards, Winter fire hazards, forest pest management, and smoke effects on public health. Click here to view meeting recordings. Click here for a list of FireFree yard debris disposal dates and locations.

The Upper Deschutes River Community Wildfire Protection Plan will be revised this year to include wildfire hazard maps, wildfire fuels treatments accomplished and planned on public and private lands, and status of action items. Residents are invited to provide input on the process at a meeting on June 13 at the Sunriver Library. Click here to learn more about CWPPs in Deschutes County.

Kevin discussed forest types and conditions in Central Oregon. The 50 mile distance from the Cascade crest to Bend varies from wet to dry forest types. In dry forests, the historical natural fire return interval was 10 – 15 years with low severity surface fires. Fire suppression during the last 100 years has increased tree density. Rising temperatures and drought has resulted in longer fire seasons with large high-severity wildfires.

The 1990 Awbrey Hall fire and 1996 Skeleton fires in the Bend area caused the loss of 41 homes. The primary loss of homes is due to ember storms from wind driven wildfires. From that experience, Deschutes County started Project Wildfire, and the FireFree program. In 2004 the Upper Deschutes River Coalition published the first Community Wildfire Protection Plan in Oregon. The National Fire Protection Association publishes defensible space guidelines and administers the Firewise USA community program. There are 52 Firewise communities in Deschutes County and 9 Firewise communities in the UDRC area.

Deschutes County has invested $10.6M for community wildfire mitigation work and applied for Fall community grant funding from Office of State Fire Marshal. The UDRC has grant funds for defensible space expense reimbursement and low-income senior residents assistance. The Office of State Fire Marshal offers online webinars on defensible space and home hardening during May. A wildfire home assessment class will be offered on May 25, 12:30 – 5:00 PM at the La Pine main fire station.

Dan Daugerty, La Pine Fire District assistant chief presented information about measure 9-157, 5-year operating levy on the May 16 ballot. The levy adds $0.64 per $1000 property assessed value. Funds will be used to add 9 firefighter/paramedics. The fire district levy has not increased since 1998, and emergency medical calls have increased 100% in the past 6 years. La Pine Fire District has recently hired a new fire chief.