((L) An Oregon Wildfire Defense spray tech. (R) A home saved from the 2007 Witch Fire near San Diego | Photos Courtesy of Oregon Wildfire Defense)
With extreme heat and drought conditions upon us, wildfire season starts earlier and earlier each year, and with it can come worry and stress about the safety of our homes, particularly for those living in the outskirts. With this in mind, a trio of longtime Oregonians has formed a new business called Oregon Wildfire Defense. The company is a service provider of the Certified Advanced Firebreak product, and works in conjunction with Wildfire Alliance Inc.
Oregon Wildfire Defense has a team of spray technicians who apply the Certified Advanced Firebreak product around a home’s perimeter and surrounding vegetation, which helps prevent flying embers from igniting dry plants, grass and shrubs that can easily engulf a home. The product is similar to what firefighters drop from airplanes, but is a special proprietary blend made specifically for use around homes that is safe with kids and pets.
“Certified Advanced Firebreak is a new version of old technology. It is high-purity, nontoxic, nonhazardous and very safe to use around the house,” says Dan Enloe, president of Wildfire Alliance. “It contains an extra feature that has fuel-reduction technology. If you spray it around the house on leaves and bark and such, it will compost dead materials to break down fuels over time.” Enloe says the product is particularly helpful in more remote communities, where sometimes there is only a volunteer fire department with limited trucks and firefighters. “They can’t save everybody’s houses. This product protects from embers coming from the air that hit a house, then fall down onto the flammable materials below that wind up igniting the house. The idea is to keep the items around the house safe.”
Enloe joined Wildfire Alliance last year when the inventor and creator of the company had to step down from running the business due to a family tragedy. He invited a new management team to take it over, and Enloe became president. “He invented long-term fire retardant for use around homes, and we have expanded on that. The spray is not sprayed on homes; it is sprayed around homes on anything that has cellulose in it, like bushes, tree leaves and landscaping,” Enloe explains. “This is an extra thing you can do, besides choosing good building materials for your home and doing fire-wise trimmings. This will actually prevent plant materials around your house from being ignited as long as it doesn’t rain. If it does rain, the product can be reapplied.”
After observing the effectiveness of the Certified Advanced Firebreak product during the Witch Fire in San Diego in 2007, earlier this year, three locals created Oregon Wildfire Defense (OWD) in order to provide the product to nine counties in Central Oregon. “It’s really exciting to get into this because I think we can really make a difference to the communities that are not within the urban space,” says Clark Nelson, chief human resources officer and chief marketing officer of OWD. “In the San Diego fire, there were 17 proven saves due to this spray.”
Originally, 15-20 years ago, Enloe says insurance companies put an exclusive on this product, and it was being used to protect mansions. “We figured out how to make it affordable. We are also starting a commercial division. For Oregon Wildfire Defense, it’s about protecting individual homes. This product is long-term, as opposed to others that will only last a few hours. This lasts much longer and is designed to complement, not interfere, with fire department work. We don’t want to be there when it is evacuation go time.”
Angela Enloe, CEO and president of OWD, says she and the other two owners of the company partnered with Dan Enloe and Wildfire Alliance (WFA) to offer help to homeowners looking to protect their investment. “We exist because of Wildfire Alliance and how they got started. We initiated our company to be a service provider for their company. We are an Oregon provider for WFA, which is worldwide.” She adds, “We are an alternative. We will be working with insurance companies in a database to get customers discounts on policies. People who care, like insurance companies and even fire departments, will be able to access the database and know if your house is protected or not.”
For those interested in having their property sprayed, Angela Enloe says OWD will provide a bid based upon the size of the home and the questions they ask related to the home. “Then, a certified spray tech will come out to spray. They’ll walk the property and look for fire-wise areas that could be improved upon, such as an outbuilding that is too close to the home, unsafe firewood piles, gutters that aren’t cleaned, etc., and they will make recommendations. Then they’ll walk around and spray. They might be able to do landscaping cleanup and spraying at the same time.” For a 2,000-square-foot home, she says the process would take about 30 minutes, depending upon the bark, bushes and trees on the property, or it could take up to an hour or longer for big lots. “We can spray around wood piles and structures. We add fire-safe work to the bid and offer fire-wise advice. We will give you a pamphlet that shows you what fire-wise nonprofits recommend in order to stay safe.”
Pricing for the spraying starts at $325 for homes under 3,000 square feet and goes up from there. “A key thing for users to understand is that they can’t wash down or use sprinklers on the product,” says Angela Enloe. “If there is a big storm, we can come out and spray again at an extremely discounted price. It’s really important to not wash down the area that has been sprayed. Drip irrigation is OK, but sprinklers going every day on the protected materials are not.”
OWD is typically a few weeks out in terms of spraying appointments, she says. “It really depends upon our schedule. We try to do several neighborhoods in an area together. We will start to do some mailings in the areas we want to focus on.” Central Oregon is the first market OWS is hitting, she says, and though the company has a triage system for evacuation levels 1 and 2, which would be immediately attended to, those with reservations will get served first.
“This coincides with helping reduce the load during times of need for first responders and fire departments so they can focus their efforts elsewhere,” says Nelson. “We are currently forming partnerships, meeting with landscapers to work out arrangements where they are trained and certified in applying the materials.”