For many long-term Central Oregon residents, it is hard to imagine that 30 years have passed since the Awbrey Hall fire – an event that came a bit too close for comfort, causing home evacuations, destroying property and increasing fire safety scrutiny in our growing city. In light of this three-decade anniversary, Central Oregon Daily recently revisited the importance of fire prevention and planning for fire safety and protection.
The broadcast covers the details about the blaze from 1990, which brushed Bend’s westside, burning 22 homes and covering 3,500 acres. Interviews with first responders and piecing together historic news coverage help to bring the disaster to life, illustrating the danger that exists at a transect zone between wilderness and urban landscapes.
Parts of Central Oregon’s high desert environment have what the reporter calls the “perfect fuel load” for a fire like this, with pine trees and a bitterbrush understory. Remembering this fire gives us perspective on why it is important to commit to working together to protect our community from fire. The report includes an interview with Craig Letz, a fire professional consultant for The Tree Farm and Discovery West, on our extensive work to create a FireWise USA Community from the ground up with The Tree Farm on the edge of Bend’s westside.
One of our first steps at The Tree Farm was to reduce fire fuels and prepare the land for development through a prescribed burn in partnership with the Deschutes Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD). We also implemented a wide number of master plan design elements and construction requirements, from landscaping to building materials, for the built environment as contributors to fire safety and prevention.
We are taking a similar approach at the new Bend Oregon neighborhood of Discovery West, where we have committed to building a fire-resilient community. In part, this means incorporating landscape and construction measures that help prevent the spread of wildfire should it ever be near. Our plans also include becoming a Firewise Community to provide the framework for neighbors to work together to protect their properties from fire.
As the broadcast says, we’ve made massive strides as a community over the past three decades when it comes to overall awareness of fire risk, as well as focusing on working together to take responsible mitigation measures. As a land development company with deep roots in the region, we’ve made it a priority to take these measures in our own communities and commit to safety and education when it comes to fire prevention.