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Crews preparing Oakridge homes as Kwis Fire grows

Here's what you can do to protect your home before a wildfire encroaches.

Posted: Aug 12, 2021 6:39 PM

OAKRIDGE, Ore. -- While almost all of the 20 fires in the Middle Fork complex are contained, there are still a few that are cause for concern, including the Kwis Fire burning near Oakridge.

According to fire officials, the Kwis and Knoll fires are both so close to residential areas that people's safety is their top priority, but structural safety teams are also hard at work keeping homes safe. The Knoll fire is burning near McKenzie Bridge.

MIDDLE FORK COMPLEX: Evacuations, closures and Knoll fire updates

Normally Oakridge High School is quiet in the summer, but not this year. Fire crews from all 36 counties in Oregon are calling it home when they're not fighting the Knoll and Kwis fires. 

With fires like these, it takes a multitude of experts, including incident meteorologist Bruno Rodriguez. 

"As we head into another heat wave with temperatures yesterday even that soared into the higher elevations, so that's been an increasing struggle and complication for folks. And really heading into today and tomorrow, we're going to see very similar conditions that are going to be challenging for folks on the fire line," said Rodriguez. 

And while crews from all across the state have dug in, keeping the fires at bay, they are still looking out for homes in Oakridge. 

Spokesperson for the Oregon State Fire Marshal Carmen Westfall said with the extra hands from those 36 counties, triaging homes gets done a lot faster. 

"So as of today, we have triaged approximately 327 homes in Oakridge and the Level 2 evacuation areas," said Westfall. 

What goes into triaging a home? Task Force 36 leader Brandt Enridgt told KEZI 9 News that crews start by looking at what a house has. 

"Making sure we don't have vegetation on the roofs in the gutters, brush and wood piles up against the house. Irrigated green lawn is nice and helpful, because that prevents embers from starting a new fire right up against the house," said Enridgt.

He said crews also check to see if there are major fire-starters like propane tanks or wood. 

"And then anything that could potentially catch fire, we like to identify those, and if we can if we're able to and have those resources, then pull that stuff away," said Enridgt.

You can tell a house has been triaged and prepped if there is a green card close to the road. Enridgt said to not take these cards down because it has important information that helps fire crews. Information like the house address, what kind of fire truck can fit on the property, and if there is defensable space around the house. 

And there are some things the people of Oakridge can do to help out crews. 

"Spring cleaning is super important around the house, outside of the house and outside of the structure to be prepared before the fire is in your backyard," said Enridgt. 

He said you can clear away fire-starters around your house, close doors and windows, keep your yard watered, and make sure your roofs and gutters are clear of any extra clutter. 

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