Oregon Exhibit Shows Households How to be Fire-Safe

The first full-scale fire-prevention safety house in the nation is blooming at The Oregon Garden.

By July 2011, homeowners living in Oregon’s wildland-urban interface, fire officials and home improvement retailers will have a life-sized teaching tool to demonstrate how to make homes less vulnerable to wildfires.

Individuals who are unable to visit the garden in person still will be able to tour the house.

“This exhibit will be available nationwide,” said Oregon Department of Forestry’s Craig Pettinger, project manager. “One of the pieces of the grant is to provide an online virtual tour so people can view it from anywhere.”

The project will be funded by a $600,000 Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The grant will pay for interpretive fire education displays and the production of a video chronicling the project to serve as an instructional tool for homeowners.

An existing 1970s-era home, currently used as the garden’s business office, is being developed into the exhibit.

The cost of remodeling the home and landscaping the property will be funded through other grants and donations, said Denny Stoll, Oregon Garden Foundation chairman.

The Oregon Garden Fire Safety House will feature fire-resistant landscaping and building materials on the outside and fire prevention and safety displays on the inside.

Visitors will learn about the top causes of home fires in Oregon, smoke alarms and residential sprinklers.

In 2009, there were more than 2,300 home fires, resulting in an estimated $60 million in property loss, according to Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal’s 2009 report.

Nine Oregonians died and 172 were injured in the house fires.

“Safety starts with one home at a time,” said State Fire Marshal Randy Simpson, adding that the ultimate goal is to have no fire fatalities in Oregon.

The project is a partnership between The Oregon Garden Foundation, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University, Moonstone Garden Management and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal.

Representatives from the different entities gathered last week at the garden to talk about the house.

Coincidentally, the ceremony fell at the end of National Fire Prevention Week.

According to Dan Postrel, ODF’s agency affairs director, it’s estimated that as many as 500,000 to 700,000 lots may be located in Oregon’s wildland-urban interface, although not all of the lots are developed.

“Oregon is a beautiful place, and the appeal of living in the woods is strong,” Postrel said. “That’s why a project like this is so important, so people can come and touch and feel and learn how to make their own surroundings survivable and dependable.”

Stoll said he expects the new exhibit to attract regional and national attention.

“The end result of this collaboration will be the fact that working with other entities not related to the garden has opened various avenues for us to reach out to people who we didn’t have the ability to reach before,” he said.