CentralPointprepdayphotoLocal Oregon school creates Firewise garden in honor of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

by Audrey Cooney, NFPA Public Affairs Intern

The Firewise community of Center Point, Oregon, celebrated Wildfire Community Preparedness Day by creating a Firewise garden outside of a local elementary school.

Sams Valley Elementary School is a rural school surrounded by dense vegetation. As project manager Ashley Lara explained, most of the children who attend the school also live in rural areas, and have seen first-hand the impact wildfires have in Southwest Oregon every year.

“Due to the areas dense vegetation, steep topography and hot summers, Southwest Oregon is very familiar with long hot, smoke filled summers,” said Lara.

During the week before Prep Day, Lara and the owner of a landscaping company who was helping with the project visited the school to talk to students about the new Firewise garden. Students learned about proper watering, planting and maintenance.

The land selected for the garden was in front of the school, and overgrown with large juniper bushes and other plants that could easily provide fuel for a wildfire. The school and students decided that putting a Firewise garden at the school was a great way to education the children’s families and the entire community about the benefits of having one.

60 students in 3rd and 4th grade were involved with the project. This included classroom instruction on creating a Firewise garden, to hands-on experiences as the students collaborated on digging out the pathway for the garden, laying bark and planting fire resistant vegetation.

The Firewise Learning Garden was created in collaboration with J &M Landscape, Hilton Landscaping and Shooting Start Nursery. The community was also a recipient of a funding award from State Farm, which was used to purchase top soil, decomposed granite and fire-resistant plants. In the future, the school has agreed to maintain their Firewise garden. Each year, they will remove flammable vegetation from around the school and plant additional fire-resistant plants in the garden. Along with helping to protect the school from wildfire, the continued work on the garden will allow students to continue their education in Firewise practices.

Lara says that Prep Day organizers chose to work with children because they’ve found that they are the best way to reach their parents and the wider community. She says she hopes that the children involved with creating the garden would teach their parents about the impact of Firewise practices.

She says, “I work a lot with children and I am a firm believer that they are our future foresters, land stewards and firefighters.”