Wildfire & Community Risk Reduction is primarily focused on activities that save lives and property by preventing fires and mitigating hazardous conditions. Duties under Community Risk Reduction include plan reviews, fire code enforcement, commercial property inspections, new construction inspections, land use code, emergency management, emergency operations center development, weed abatement enforcement, fire investigations, public information, public education, and the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.
The Wildfire Division guides wildfire mitigation, prevention, and forest stewardship to help protect homes, property, critical infrastructure, and the City’s municipal water supply. Staff partners with citizens, state and federal agencies, the Ashland Chamber and local businesses, and non-profit groups for healthier and safer forests and neighborhoods. Programs include Firewise USA, the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, Smokewise Ashland, and Fire Adapted Ashland. City forestlands management, watershed fire patrol, wildfire prevention and education, Nixle emergency alerting, wildland fire training, and AF&R Management Advisory Committees including Forest Lands and Fire Adapted Ashland (previously known as the City’s Forest Lands Commission and Wildfire Safety Commission, respectively) also fall under the Division’s program of work.
- Reviewed 561 third party Brycer inspection reports. These reports revealed that Ashland’s commercial fire suppression systems comprising of fire sprinklers, fire alarms, restaurant hood fire protection systems, paint booths, and emergency generators are 88.41% compliant and without deficiencies. This leaves 11.59% or 65 structures systems in danger of not working if the system is needed.
- Completed 50 regularly scheduled fire safety inspections in areas of higher risk, including schools, care facilities, residential buildings, areas of assembly, and downtown businesses.
- Created and hired the Fire and Life Safety Specialist position by combining part-time Weed Abatement and CERT Coordinator positions.
- 215.5 acres of property in the City of Ashland completed weed abatement hazard mitigation following inspection and education.
- Provided public education and outreach to 5,734 children and adult residents.
- Assisted State Legislators to rewrite portions of Senate Bill 762 addressing wildfire risk and building codes.
- The weed abatement coordinator pursued 186 weed abatement cases of which 165 (89%) were resolved. Received and processed 124 citizen complaints in reference to fire danger, of which 8 were repeat property violators from multiple years. 137 weed abatement violation notices were issued in 2022, and after extensive work to abate the hazards without compliance, eight citations were issued.
- Partnered with the American Red Cross to develop a smoke alarm program for residents of Ashland. Free smoke alarms are installed in homes according to the guidelines set by the Oregon State Fire Marshal. Over 55 new alarms have been installed during the first few months of the program.
- The Ashland CERT program maintains an active roster of 125 volunteers. Ten new CERT members were added from the first basic training since COVID began.
- CERT volunteers provided service to the community through public education, outreach activities, as well as everyday shelter staffing.
- Fire Adapted Ashland (FAA) developed the volunteer-led Wildfire Risk Assessment Program in partnership with the Wildfire Safety Commission in 2021. We completed training and certification of the first cohort of volunteers in Sept. 2021. Six volunteers have performed over 300 individual property risk assessments as of January 2023.
- Secured $3 million FEMA grant for wildfire safety on 1,100 properties. The grant was approved and contract signed in April of 2021.
- Conducted over 275 wildfire risk reduction consultations to homeowners throughout Ashland as part of the FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant.
- Wildfire risk was reduced on 180 homes to create or improve defensible space on the highest risk properties in Ashland. We reimbursed over $300,000 to residents through our FEMA-funded grant program.
- Replaced 8 wood shake roofs with ignition-resistant construction materials and reimbursed $78,256.00 to homeowners through the FEMA grant program.
- Continued our Fire Adapted Ashland program of work and brand development, including a new logo design in 2022.
- Continued the four-month wildfire preparedness campaign in collaboration with the Wildfire Safety Commission. Local businesses hosted displays, in addition to Fire Adapted Ashland media outreach and community messaging.
- Annual woody debris drop-off days continued in partnership with Ashland Recology, resulting in over 240 cubic yards of flammable debris disposed each year.
- Staff and Wildfire Safety Commissioners continued the partnership with Rogue Valley Association of Realtors to institute wildfire safety inspections during home sales and host realtor education classes. Two Continuing Education Courses were held for local realtors in 2022, one virtual, one hybrid.
- Staff and Wildfire Safety Commissioners hosted and instructed a Fire-resistant Landscaping Best Practices class for Landscaping Architects and Service providers in Feb. 2022 with 28 individuals from local businesses in attendance.
- Staff hosted and instructed a Fire Adapted Landscaping and Defensible Space webinar in April 2022 with 99 online participants in attendance. The recording of which is available on our Fire Adapted Ashland website.
- Staff and partner agencies hosted and instructed a “How to be Smokewise” webinar in March 2022. The recording is available at smokewiseashland.org.
- One Wildfire Division staff was recertified as a NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist.
- Received a State of Oregon grant for $450,000 for prescribed burning in the Ashland Watershed along with creating fuel breaks around Ashland neighborhoods.
- Controlled burning of piles was completed on 1,374 acres of City and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Land as part of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project and City/APRC forestlands management.
- 198 acres of “good fire” was returned to our local landscape on private and U.S. Forest Service land despite ongoing drought and a burn moratorium on federal land in spring of 2022. Reintroducing the long-absent role of mild fire reduces the intensity of summer wildfires and helps forests adapt to a changing climate.
- An Ashland Forest Plan climate change addendum was finished by staff and the Forest Lands Commission/Committee and presented to Council.
- Continued a relationship with Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA) to educate clients on wildfire safety and smoke preparedness, and strategize outreach to the larger unhoused population. We fostered OHRA staff awareness and understanding of wildfire risks, smoke preparedness, indoor clean-air spaces, and vegetation maintenance best practices relating to the new Community Resource Center through risk assessments and AF&R participation in volunteer-led on-site mitigation activities.
- A watershed drone patrol program piloted in the BN2019-21 was successfully continued through BN 2021-23 to identify and prevent potential ignition sources in the lower Ashland watershed. High risk campsites were identified and removed from watershed lands.
- Conducted flammability tests on locally available bark mulches and non-flammable wood fence coatings. We found grant dollars to publish the results for the public to make better landscaping choices.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
- Hire a Fire Marshal to ensure code compliance and reduce community risk by beginning a commercial inspection program. Position will be funded from plan review/land development and commercial inspections from established fees.
- Continue to pursue grant funds for commercial building safety system updates.
- Gain compliance with State Fire Code and City Resolution by completion of required fire inspections.
- Improve fee and permit collection processes.
- Provide an additional 825 wildfire risk consultations to Ashland residents as part of the FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant.
- Decrease Ashland’s wildfire risk by completing wildfire mitigation projects on 825 properties in BN 2023-25 through the FEMA grant.
- Track changes in community wildfire risk through updating property risk assessments when work is completed on a property through FEMA grant projects or voluntary means. Report the change in risk annually.
- Replace nine remaining eligible wood shake roofs in Ashland with ignition-resistant construction materials of Class B or better.
- Pending grant approval, update the City of Ashland’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) within BN 2023-25.
- Pending grant approval from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, initiate community wildfire mitigation projects on multi-unit complex properties within City limits that reduce risks to vulnerable populations.
- Implement ramp-up of wildfire home assessments through the volunteer Wildfire Risk Assessment Program (WRAP) to at least 700 properties in BN 2023-25.
- Increase annual controlled “underburn” acres to 500 acres/year from current 150 acres average along with completion of all backlogged pile burn acres. This goal will require significant community outreach using the Smokewise Ashland program and continued use of the Ashland Community Smoke Response Plan.
- Offer at least three contractor training courses for fire safe construction and landscaping per year. This addresses Climate Change Mitigation goals.
- Implement actions identified in the Community Smoke Response Plan to increase awareness and action in protecting residents from smoke. This addresses Climate Change Mitigation goals.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES FROM 2021-2023
Due to recent drought and widespread tree mortality, more funding is needed to manage fuels and conduct prescribed burns. Additional grant opportunities will continue to be pursued.
- Measure # 1: Complete Fire Plan reviews for new construction within two weeks of submittal, 80 % of the time.
- Measure # 2: Initiate code violation complaint inspections/enforcement actions within 5 business days for immediate hazards, 100% of the time; and within 10 business days for low and moderate reported hazards, 100% of the time.
- Measure # 3: Complete nationally recognized fire inspection timelines on all commercial and multi-family residential properties.
- Measure # 4: Complete new-construction inspections and certificates of occupancy inspections within 2 weeks of notification 80% of the time.
- Respond to Community Risk Complaints for vegetation within 5 days.
- Continue to re-evaluate properties for vegetation fire risks.
- Measure # 5: Continue bi-annual CERT academies.
- Conduct at least 700 wildfire home risk assessments per year.
- Increase Underburning acres completed to goal of 500 acres per year.
- Work with AFR Project partners to field fuels projects on at least 12 new private properties that have not participated in previous fuels reduction programs.
- Complete 50 individual property wildfire mitigation projects per month with goal of 350 per year.
- Increase participation of vulnerable communities and the reach of Smokewise Ashland, 100 more residential air purifiers, three large capacity air scrubbers, and two yearly classes for the public.