Lake Chinook Fire & Rescue is located in Culver, on Lake Billy Chinook and in the high desert of Central Oregon. The district responds to nearly 105 square miles of territory. The fire district serves a retirement / vacation, recreational resort community of 573 full-time residents. Each year they host an additional 36,000 visitors during the summer months. Over the past 3 decades, many retired residence have moved to the area. Eighty-seven percent of the population is over 60 years of age. This growth is expected to continue.
The district is comprised of four subdivisions, consisting of clusters of homes and small businesses and surrounding ranch lots. The area is made up of scattered private timber land and the hydro-electric project lands owned by Portland General Electric and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. We are in a very fire prone area. Two out of four subdivisions in my district are rated High-Density Extreme as classified in the most current CWPP.
Wildfires have increased in intensity and severity in the past decade. Our area is threatened each summer by at least one large wildfire. Proactive responsible planning, treatment, mitigation and education is necessary to reduce risk, reduce property and landscape loss and increase the safety of property owners and firefighters.
Our goal is to develop a comprehensive plan, a guide designed to help community leaders, planners, emergency professionals, and property owners learn the best approaches and programs to help their community become more fire adapted. This plan is district wide and will include all sub-divisions neighborhoods. Our work addresses issues such as wildfire response, hazard mitigation, individual property risk, community preparedness, training, equipment and infrastructure. Our department works with the HOA on improving infrastructure through mitigation along access and Egress, Improving safe zones and escape routes. Individual property owners are encouraged to improve their defensible space through public meetings, workshops and mitigation grants.
So far the program is gaining ground. In the 2018 Graham Fire, a 2000 plus acre fire had 300 structures inside the footprint of the fire. We only lost 11 structures. This was due primarily to defensible space performed by property owners and roadside right-away work done for the HOA on a grant.