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Home fire safety funds offered.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

Correction (published July 31, 2009): City/Region: The Lane County Firewise Incentive Program, which provides for home improvement fire safety projects, is open to residents of rural Lane County at risk to wildfire. The eligible area includes all land outside the Eugene-Springfield urban growth boundary, and outside the city limits of all other incorporated cities in Lane County. Residents may be eligible if their property is vulnerable to wildfire, regardless of the zoning of their property or of neighboring properties. For more information, visit or call 682-6522. A story that ran on Page B1 Wednesday was unclear about eligibility.

The risk of wildfire has Deane Swartz nervously eyeing the trees and brush next to her Dexter area home.

An errant spark and the slightest breeze could put the house - and the community - at risk, Swartz said. But she plans to reduce the threat of wildfire with home improvement projects funded through Lane County.

"We all need to `think smart' about our surroundings and the potential of what could happen if a wildfire should break out in our community," Swartz said.

Lane County is offering $500,000 annually to improve homes and landscapes at risk of wildfire.

The money is part of the long-standing federal timber payments to Lane County, and officials used to use it to run a low-security correctional facility. But new restrictions on the timber payments make the fire protection program the best use of the money, officials said.

The Firewise Incentive Program provides cash for landscaping and structural improvements to protect against wildfire. Home owners could receive up to $12,000 annually and the county will waive fees for necessary building permits.

The county formerly used a portion of federal timber payments - called Title III dollars - to run the 100-bed Forest Work Camp southwest of Eugene. With the funds no longer available, the county closed the work camp and is currently seeking a tenant for the site.

The timber payments, which have plummeted in recent years, have long been given annually to Lane and other counties with federal timberland.

However, officials who analyzed spending of Title III money between 2000-06 reported misuse for such things as paying county officials' salaries. Lane County was not one of the counties analyzed for the report.

"Some (uses) clearly did not meet the spirit and intent of the act," said Director Jonathan Kusel of the California-based Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, in testimony two years ago to the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In the renewal of the federal timber payments that runs from 2008-11, the Senate eliminated use of the money for such things as community service work camps. The money may be used only to carry out the Firewise program, develop community wildfire protection plans or reimburse for emergency services on federal land, such as search and rescue or firefighting, the U.S. Forest Service said.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said he is "very disappointed" that the Senate cut the work camp from eligible uses of the money. But a Wyden aide said a fire protection program that assists individual homeowners is, like the work camp, a benefit to the larger community.

"To the extent that it increases fire resistance on private property that could potentially save thousands of acres of public property, it definitely serves the public good," said Tom Towslee, state spokesman for Wyden.

The program fits with the county's efforts to manage urban areas close to forestland that need wildfire protection, said planner Keir Miller. The program also will help the local economy when work orders start coming in for landscape projects and home improvements, Miller said.


Lane County is offering homeowners financial assistance:

Up to $12,000 per owner of rural land

Uses may include installation of fire-resistant siding, replacement of wood shake roof, spark arrestors on chimneys and landscaping improvements

For more information, visit or call 682-6522
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Title Annotation:Government Local; Lane County is giving out $500,000 annually to improve houses and landscapes at risk of wildfire
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 29, 2009
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