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Ashland is seeking volunteers for wildfire assessment backlogs

A woman in a hi-vis vest and a baseball cap kneels down at the base of a home. She is pulling a crawlspace vent cover away from the home as she looks inside the vent.
Roman Battaglia
/
Jefferson Public Radio
Fire assessment volunteer Reggie Windham looks at the crawlspace vents at the base around a home during an assessment.

Ashland Fire and Rescue is in need of more volunteers to help with a backlog of home evaluations for wildfire risk.

The city is seeking around 20-30 new volunteers to join its Volunteer Wildfire Risk Assessment Program. In the program, homeowners can get help figuring out how to make their homes and yards more resistant to wildfire.

“Especially since [the Almeda Fire], so many more people wanted to try to find more answers to what they could do around their house, to better protect themselves," said Program Coordinator Brian Hendrix at Ashland Fire & Rescue. "And so that’s really where it exploded, once we got this program up and running.”

Hendrix said they’ve had a backlog of assessments since the volunteer program began in 2021. Right now they have a three to four month-long waiting list for home evaluations.

Hendrix said the six volunteers they have now can't meet the needs of Ashland residents.

“The bigger pool we have of volunteers who are certified and able to go out, the less obligation it is per volunteer," he said. "To where scheduling, having to leave for vacations or anything else, if we have a big enough pool, we still have those requested assessments covered by somebody.”

Volunteers receive around 30-40 hours of training, after which they visit Ashland homes and evaluate them for wildfire risks, and provide solutions, like trimming vegetation and covering house vents to prevent airborne embers from getting in. After training, Hendrix said volunteers should only expect to do around two assessments per month.

Hendrix said they’re looking for a diverse group of people to reach vulnerable communities. He said there are resiliency grants available for low-income homeowners that could be identified through doing home assessments.

The city is accepting applications until the introductory meeting on March 1. An application for the program is available on the City of Ashland’s website.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.