Anita Savio IVN contributing writer
Funds for wildfire fuels reduction in areas of Cave Junction and Kerby will soon be coming down the pike to protect against forest fires ripping through those two communities. The Community Wildfire Defense Grant program is part of President Biden’s $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
According to Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District engagement coordinator Cheryl Nelson, $113,744 in federal funds will be administered by the conservation district, while the work itself will be supervised by the Illinois Valley Fire Resiliency Oversight Group.
IVFROG is an interagency work group comprised of representatives from federal, state and local governments plus community-based nonprofit organizations, and its goal is to address wildfire fuel load conditions in the Illinois River Watershed.
The priority area for the project is bounded by both sides of Kerby Mainline Road all the way south to Laurel Road where it intersects with Walters Road. The area includes the older adult housing, Cedar Brook subdivision.
“We are concerned about egress issues with the Cedar Brook development. There are a lot of over-55s that might have trouble getting out if there should be a fire,” said Nelson.
The selection of the south end of Kerby and the north end of Cave Junction was based on the Rum Creek fire last summer.
In that case the winds were coming from the north-northwest, which is the typical wind direction in the month of August. The extent of the treatment area is approximately 240 acres.
Nelson said that a likely source of ignition is Highway 199, due to the high volume of tourist travel, including dragging of chains by motor homes and people throwing out lit cigarettes.
The fuels reduction work will be free for owners of properties from .25 acres to 40 acres in size, limited only by the amount of funds available. Participation is optional. Interested owners should call to be placed on a list. But the order of work will be based on two other factors: if there are contiguous properties that also need treatment and by the potential for fire damage. An agreement will require that landlords maintain the property in Firewise fashion for several years. An estimated 81 properties will be treated.
Included in the grant application are funds for two biochar kilns for owners who wish to avoid smoke from the burning of thinned material and wish to avail themselves of this treatment which can return important minerals to the soil and provide water retention.
“This grant is an important step toward mitigating catastrophes such as the Almeda Fire,” said Nelson.
The Almeda Fire swept through the towns of Phoenix and Talent in 2020, burning more than 3,000 acres and destroying more than 2,500 homes.
For information about a no-cost assessment of a forested property, landowners should contact IVFROG at 541-415-0603.