June 21, 2024

State Fire Marshal offers $250 grants to renters, homeowners for wildfire defensible space

Oregonians in 50 communities can apply for $250 to help pay for work around their homes that will make them more resilient to wildfire. Oregon Department of Forestry/Flickr photo
March 19, 2024

Talent among cities currently eligible for reimbursement for fire safety work; Ashland offering free risk assessments

By Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle

The State Fire Marshal is offering grants of $250 to help property owners in 50 communities, including Talent and Phoenix, prepare their homes against wildfires. The program launched March 11, ahead of the 2024 wildfire season, and is meant to encourage residents in areas facing a high risk of wildfires to clear space around their properties. That means getting rid of debris, plants, tree branches and any flammable materials within at least 5 feet of homes and buildings, according to the office of the State Fire Marshal.

Despite state fire agencies calling for more money to help property owners create defensible space and harden homes and buildings in high-risk communities, the Legislature last summer allocated about $3 million for such work. That’s about 10 times less than lawmakers approved in 2021. During the recent Legislative session, a bill proposed by state Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, to spend $5 million to fund defensible space projects died in the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

It also would have paid for the development of a state certification program for home hardening to help Oregonians protect their properties and encourage insurance companies to retain wildfire coverage and maintain level premiums for properties deemed at a high risk of wildfire. Statewide, property insurance premiums are up an average of nearly 30% since 2020, according to the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services. In some parts of the state, the Capital Chronicle found homeowners are paying double or quadruple what they paid just a year ago in premiums and in some areas, several of the biggest insurance companies in the country aren’t writing new property policies.

Ashland fire prep page
The city of Ashland Fire & Rescue department is currently offering free firewise assessment, a 60-minute, one-on-one inspection around your home and property to evaluate fire risk.
For more information about and to sign up for the risk assessment, as well as information on the free green debris drop off day usually held the first weekend in May for all Ashland Residents, click here.

To qualify for the $250 grant, applicants must request a free defensible space assessment by a local fire department or a representative of the Fire Marshal. An expert will visit the property and develop a list of actions the applicant can undertake. These include removing vegetation growing under eaves or in gutters; removing brush, needles, leaves and mulch near decks and fences; trimming and pruning trees and shrubs and cutting dead and overgrown branches; getting rid of any highly flammable debris within 100 feet of a structure; and keeping any combustible vegetation at least 10 feet away from propane tanks.

If the renter or property owner clears at least two areas or completes two items on the list, they can submit an application. Successful applicants will be sent $250 Visa gift cards to help pay for the work. The agency estimates that $250 would be apt compensation for about eight hours of work, or work worth about $31 per hour.

Residents in these Oregon communities can apply: Warm Springs • Culver • Canyonville • Halfway • Chenoweth • Chiloquin • Mount Hood • Gold Hill • Williams • La Pine • Trail • Cave Junction • Glendale • Ontario • Terrebonne • Tutuilla • Talent • Merlin • Madras • Days Creek • John Day • Redmond • Riddle • The Dalles • Mosier • Parkdale • Vale • Mission • Elgin • Metolius • Hermiston • White City • Burns • Bonanza • Canyon City • Prineville • Tri-City • Irrigon • New Hope • Gopher Flats • Boardman • Odell • Grants Pass • Butte Falls • Rogue River • Cottage Grove • Central Point • La Grande • Phoenix • Fossil.

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post.

March 20: Noted that Phoenix as well as Talent included.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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