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Lend a hand to reduce wildfire risk

It may be quieter than usual around town, but it is a beautiful day in the neighborhoods of Ashland.

Behind the closed doors of homes across town, Ashland is bustling with activity and showing off its most beautiful colors by supporting members of our community.

Over the past several weeks, through platforms such as Nextdoor, Facebook and the Adopt a Neighbor Ashland program, we have witnessed the kindness of individuals and families volunteering to help their vulnerable neighbors avoid contracting COVID-19 by picking up and dropping off their groceries, picking up their prescriptions, and simply giving them a phone call to check in. You are flattening the curve by being neighborly. Mr. Rogers would be so happy to be your neighbor here in Ashland.

For those of you who are helping your neighbors, we would like to remind you that it is critical to protect both yourself and your neighbors from contracting and spreading the coronavirus. Jackson County Health & Human Services provides guidance on how to take care of your neighbors while still preventing the spread of COVID-19. Here are a few important points to remember:

  • If you have over-purchased basic supplies and choose to donate it to your neighbors, sanitize before and after delivery.
  • Call and text regularly to check on your neighbors, especially those who are more vulnerable.
  • If you deliver groceries or pick up meals for a neighbor, implement social distancing measures; leave goods at the front door and wash your hands before and after making a delivery.

Once the groceries have been dropped and you’ve washed your hands, Ashland Fire & Rescue would like to encourage you to consider offering another act of kindness to help your neighbors as you shelter at home — reduce the wildfire fuels around your home.

The mountains above Ashland received below-average snowpack this winter, and the U.S. is already observing above-average wildfire activity this spring. While the jury is still out as to what this will mean for Ashland’s wildfire season, you can control the likelihood of your home igniting in a wildfire by following these basic steps:

  • Create a fuel-free zone up to 5 feet from all structures with no combustible materials, including bark mulch. Finished compost, rock mulch or decomposed granite work well. Keep it lean, clean and green. Well-spaced and pruned firewise plants are OK.
  • Cut grass cut no higher than 4 inches by June 15 and keep it short.
  • Clean your roof and gutters of leaves and needles. Metal, tile and most asphalt roofing in good repair can resist embers, but not when piled with flammable leaves and needles.
  • Remove stored wood and flammable materials under decks, balconies and eaves.
  • Prune lower tree branches 6-10 feet off the ground within 30 feet of the home.
  • Get more tips at ashlandfirewise.org

By reducing the chances of your home igniting in a wildfire, you are also protecting your neighbors. Once you’ve completed these tasks for yourself, if you feel comfortable, offer to do this for your neighbor. Residents who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 may also have difficulty completing these tasks. So give your neighbor a call, see how they are doing, then lend a hand to help reduce the wildfire risk around their home. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and we’re so happy you’re our neighbor.

Katie Gibble is Fire Adapted Communities coordinator for Ashland Fire & Rescue.