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Defensible Space Can Save Your Home from Fire


While other states worry about tornadoes and floods, it’s wildfires that worry Central Oregonians the most.

And while many of us are well-prepared to take care of our property and neighborhood in case of a wildfire, there are still others who need to be reminded, or newcomers who need to learn what others have learned all too painfully.

For years, fire officials have been pushing for folks to create defensible space around their homes, and it appears many have taken that to heart.

Ever since the 1996 Skeleton Fire destroyed 19 homes just south of Bend, Project Wildfire has been promoting Bend’s FireFree campaign, helping homeowners protect themselves from wildfires.

And maybe nobody has taken those precautions more serious than Gary Frazier.

“We’ve tried here, as you can see, we are about maybe 50 feet, something like that,” Frazier said on a tour of his property. “And we keep pushing out in that direction, to make sure that eventually we have 100 feet from our house of defensible space.”

Frazier has lived in this home for the past 11 years, but it wasn’t until a wildfire burned frighteningly close to his home that he really became aware of the dangers.

“Certainly that alerted us that we had to create some defensible space up to 100 feet all away around, 360 degrees,” Frazier. said.

The 600-acre 18 Fire on China Hat Road in 2003 ravaged the forest less than two miles from his home in a Bend subdivision called Woodside Ranch.

“It was a serious fire — you could see the flames at the top of the pine trees right from the backyard here,” Frazier said.

It was at that moment, Frazier took the initiative to protect his home.

“Of course, we have a nice green lawn, which is an excellent fire preventer,” Frazier said. “It doesn’t burn. We try to keep that in good condition, nice and green, well watered.”

It was fires like the 18 Fire, the 1990 Awbrey Hall blaze and the Skeleton Fire that prompted Project Wildfire: They needed an education program, not just another fire engine.

“It didn’t matter if we had another fire truck or more fire personnel — what mattered is what people did beforehand, we would not have lost,” said Katie Lighthall of Project Wildfire.

It’s not hard to be fire-free: trimming and removing brush, clearing debris from yard, deck and roof, and knowing evacuation routes from your neighborhood.

One afternoon of yard work every year for peace of mind? FireFree officials say it’s worth it.

“We like to find homeowners like Gary Frazier, who have taken the time and just in a few easy steps, produced about 50- to 100 feet of defensible space around your home,” Lighthall said.

Over the last 10 years, wildfires have moved closer to homes throughout Central Oregon. A Powell Butte fire in 2009 and the Rooster Rock Fire in 2010l burned near neighborhoods, a frequent, stark reminder that homes here are in danger.

“You can’t do it all in one day, or one year. But if you do a little bit every year, you will keep (fire) moving back, away from your home and your home will be saved,” Frazier said.

Officials tell me in an average year here in Central Oregon, there are over 450 lightning-caused fires.

The high-priority areas around Bend, due to the amount of fuel that can feed wildfires, are the west, southwest and southeast sides of town.

The full list of tips are:

1. Define your defensible space

2. Reduce flammable brush around your home and under nearby trees

3. Prune or remove trees

4. Keep grass and weeds cut low

5. Clear wood piles and building materials away from your home

6. Keep your yard and roof clean

7. Keep address signs visible

8. Choose fire-resistant building materials and lawn furniture

9. Recycle yard debris-avoid burning

10. Be prepared to respond to wildfire.

For more information on the campaign and to learn more about those tips, you can visit or

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