Cathlin Torrance interviews three founders of the Eugene Wildfire Preparedness Coalition: David Monk, Tom Peck and Steven Caruana, about registering for the Coalition’s third public forum. “Community Engagement for Urban Wildfire Resilience” will feature Katie Gibble from Ashland and Amanda Rau from OSU.
Cathlin: This is Cathlin Torrance. I am here interviewing the founders of Eugene Wildfire Preparedness Coalition: David Monk, Tom Peck and Stephen Caruana. Tom, can you tell us about the theme of the upcoming wildfire forum and who will be speaking?
Tom Peck: Thank you. My name is Tom Peck and I’m on the board of the Friendly Area Neighborhood Association, and one of the founders of the Eugene Wildfire Preparedness Coalition. It is our mission in part to provide forums on the subject of wildfire. And this’ll be our third forum. We are getting great attendance, well over a hundred people each. The title of the next forum is: “Community Engagement for Urban Wildfire Resilience.” So we want to give all of our community information about how they can protect their homes and property and create a whole more resilient community. Our two speakers are Katie Gibble from the Ashland Fire and Rescue. And she is the Fire Adaptive Communities Coordinator. So she works with the community to help them reduce the fire fuel load on their property and make their properties more resilient. The other speaker is Amanda Rau, who is the Assistant Professor and Fire Specialist with Oregon State University Extension. And she is a experienced with wildfires and doing controlled burns. So she too is going to speak about what we can do in Eugene to prepare for the next wildfire season. The Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, 24th at 6:00 PM. If you haven’t received a notice for this, you could send an email to Eug.Fire.Prep.Coalition@gmail.com.
Cathlin: Thank you. Stephen, can you tell me about your role in the wildfire coalition?
Stephen: Thank you, Cathlin. My name is Stephen Caruana. I serve on the board of the Churchill area neighborhood association, and that is partly how I got involved in early stages of the wildfire coalition. The chair of the board asked if anybody had any fire experience. Well, I raised my hand. My background is as an agronomist soil scientist, and I was heavily involved over the years in my professional life in doing the post-wildfire restoration work and debris flow modeling landscape restoration efforts on large Southern California fires: Mapping, GIS work , being able to look and analyze the landscape, the various impacts that can occur and how do we then utilize that knowledge to help the people in Eugene and the neighborhood associations develop their own methods of, one, controlling areas, cleaning up areas, but also in the event of another fire, and you know, more fires are likely to occur, what would be the evacuation routes that people would have to take to get out of the way? This is something that’s been a sometimes difficult issue in past wildfires across the West.
And how do you evacuate out of an area when there’s flames all around? I’ve seen it. So when the fire struck and it struck and it hit home for us in our family, my wife’s family is all up the Mohawk Valley and they were all in evacuation mode. Fortunately none of them lost any houses, but we were ready. And as Tom mentioned the fire came frighteningly close to a large metropolitan area here.
Cathlin: Thank you. David, can you tell me why the coalition was formed?
David: Sure. Again, my name is David Monk. I’m a board member with the Southeast Neighborhood Association and current co-chair of Neighborhood Leaders Council. The WPC was formed in large part because a number of neighborhood leaders had come to understand that the Holiday Farm Fire could have blown into the Eugene / Springfield Metro area. After seeing what happened in Talent and Phoenix, we had a firsthand view of a wildfire in an urban setting and realized that we needed to start organizing in our community to prepare residents for the possibility of a wildfire burning in the Metro area. We know that many of us are ill prepared for contending with a wildfire, our homes are not hardened. Our landscaping is too close and too dense. So we wanted to bring this information to the larger community so that they can start preparing their respective homes.
Cathlin: Thank you. Tom, can you tell me more about wildfires in Eugene and why we should be so concerned about them?
Tom: Not only did the Holiday Farm Fire come frighteningly close— 14 miles more, and it would have been in Springfield and had that continued, it would have been a major disaster in Springfield and Eugene. But beyond that Oregon and California had the worst wildfire season ever. There was over a million acres burned in Oregon this last year. Also, the Fifth Oregon Climate Report came out in late 2020 predicting wildfires increasing in frequency and intensity. And what we saw last year is there were multiple, very large fires between a hundred thousand, 200,000 square acres burned and they were directly across from our major metropolitan areas. Portland was very close to a major fire as well as Salem, Eugene and Roseburg. So it is clear that we need to organize ourselves and be more prepared and more resilient for wildfires in the future.
Community Engagement for Urban Wildfire Resilience.
Wednesday, February 24th at 6:00 PM
Katie Gibble from the Ashland Fire and Rescue
Amanda Rau, with Oregon State University Extension
Cathlin: Great. Thank you. We look forward to that. Well, thank you all so much. The founders of the Eugene Wildfire Preparedness Coalition. Have a good day.