Wildfire Survivors Credit Brush Clearing for Saving Homes


Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) helped Santiam Canyon landowners apply for a federal cost-share program.

After wildfire ravaged the Santiam Canyon during the 2020 Labor Day fires, many wondered if their home was lost for good. That’s what two landowners living east of Salem, Oregon were fearing. As they evacuated from their homes, both Marry Ann Budlong and Larry Tucker knew their homes could have been taken as the Beachie Creek Fire swept down the Santiam Canyon in September 2020. Thankfully, their homes survived thanks to the landowner’s smart choices proactively preparing for wildfire– like brush clearing and removing other fuels around their homes.

In a new video produced by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and posted on YouTube, both credit their homes’ survival to having cleared away from their houses brush and dead limbs low on trees just prior to that wildfire. Before the wildfires, ODF had channeled funds from the federal Western States Fire Managers program to the area to help Canyon residents prepare their properties for wildfire. ODF encouraged landowners to apply and did on-site visits making specific recommendations to reduce wildfire risk.

Mary Ann Budlong and Larry Tucker discuss their experiences with wildfire.

Under the program, landowners get partial reimbursement for equipment or contracting labor to do the work, which Oregon Department of Forestry certifies after completion. While creating defensible space doesn’t guarantee a home won’t burn in a wildfire, combined with other steps it can greatly reduce the risk. That’s why brush clearing and other proactive measures are key to preventing disaster.

The Beachie Creek Fire burned more than 193,000 acres, making it one of five megafires that struck Oregon last year.

Read more stories from the Oregon Department of Forestry, here.

About Author

Jim Gersbach is a Public Affairs Specialist at Oregon Department of Forestry.

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