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home : current news : current news March 24, 2018

6/1/2010 1:47:00 PM
Tollgate residents work to be fire free
A Young Life crew raked yards in Tollgate to raise funds for summer camp. photo by Jay Mather
+ click to enlarge
A Young Life crew raked yards in Tollgate to raise funds for summer camp. photo by Jay Mather

Huge piles of pine needles, small tree branches and other yard debris line the streets of Tollgate awaiting pickup. The debris removal is free, which gives incentive to homewoners to make their lots more defensible from fire - and to reduce yard burning.

Tollgate business manager Betty Fadely has championed writing grants and securing funds for continued work in the Sisters subdivision.

"Our latest sweat-equity grant from Deschutes County Project Wildfire helps us reduce fuels in high-fire-risk areas," Fadely said. "360 of our 440 residents are participating. An additional eight residents have always had clean yards and don't need to do anything."

Fire safety is a long-term project in the rural subdivision west of Sisters.

"Tollgate launched an interface protection program in 1979/1980 after their fire in August 1979," said Tom Andrade, interface specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry. "By the late 1990s they had put a fire defensible area out there (in the woods west of the subdivision)."

In 1994, Tollgate amended its CC&Rs, disallowing shake roofs as new construction or replacement roofing. Fire hydrants were installed in 1996 and an emergency response plan was instituted, lowering residents' insurance rates.

In 1998 via a grant from the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program, they removed bitterbrush, a known fire hazard, which had grown to whopping four feet tall. The project took two years, but now Tollgate is bitterbrush free.

"We need these grants," Fadely said, "because we have limited funds and we have to make our community safe."

Additional fire exits have been installed and trees have been thinned and limbed to comply with Senate Bill 360, which defines an interface protection system known as Wildland Urban Interface.

Project Wildfire's Fire Exit signs were installed in Tollgate last year. The newest fire exit locations are located at Wagon Wheel and between Buggy Whip and Cantle.

Three Tollgate residents are certified to assess SB360 compliance. Some 375 of the 440 residences, each with half-acre lots, are up to code, with the remaining 65 homeowners mandated to have their homes SB360 compliant by


"There are a number of reasons I like this program," said homeowner Chuck Mohler about the Project Wildfire grant. "I like to work in the yard and I don't like to burn. This makes it easy for me to keep it clean."

Resident Sharon Newton and her husband Dwain have spent days cleaning up their yard and a nearby common area.

"We're raking places we don't normally rake because people are hauling it away. I hope they do it every year," she said.

"I've lived here for 25 years, and the community involvement is terrific," Fadely said. "One of the things I am particularly proud of is seeing neighbor helping neighbor and also competing with neighbors for the biggest pile of debris."

Students from Sisters Young Life, led by area director Jon Coulter, have also been raking yard debris throughout the community, raising funds for summer camp.

"Betty (Fadely) let us know about the project," Coulter said. "As people saw us work they kept coming over to us and we got more yard work."

When contractor Dave Elpi of Sisters Forest Products, and Keith Ross Contracting, LLC saw the amount of debris residents had collected, they had to call the Deschutes County Forester to get permission to increase the amount of equipment they could bring to the site.

"We couldn't believe the amount of debris they collected out there," Ross said.

Debris pickup begins on June 1. It is estimated it will take two weeks to remove all the debris piles from the community.

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