News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Tollgate gets Firewise

Living amid the ponderosa pine forest west of Sisters, homeowners in Tollgate know they are vulnerable to wildfire. Last weekend, the Tollgate Property Owners Association hosted an event designed to help residents take wildfire defense into their own hands.

Under a tent on the subdivision commons, representatives of the insurance industry, Oregon Department of Forestry, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services Coordinator Sgt. Nathan Garibay, and others dispensed information and shared conversation about wildfire risk mitigation.

Beyond providing educational information, the Firewise USA event was geared toward getting local residents signed up to take advantage of a modest county grant to support limbing and trimming trees around Tollgate homes.

“The first round is just to help homeowners on their properties,” said Chris West, a Tollgate resident who assisted in the staging of the event.

The second round, he said, will focus on the development’s common areas.

West told The Nugget that about 26 people signed up for a free Firewise assessment of their property. There are 440 lots in Tollgate, all but a handful of which have been built out. West said the Property Owners Association will continue to urge residents to get the assessment, which can help them figure out how to “harden” their property through the use of fire-resistant building materials, sprinkler systems, and the creation of defensible space (see sidebar, page 23).

Hoyt’s Hardware and Building Supply was on hand with samples and information on alternative deck materials that are attractive, yet considerably safer for the wildland/urban interface where Tollgate lies.

Bryan Adams, President of CoEnergy Propane, offered residents safety advice on how to treat propane tanks — emphasizing the importance of upright storage, yearly safety assessment to check for leaks and proper valve function, and advised on clearing vegetation and keeping tanks away from heat sources.

Several people shared their firsthand experiences of facing wildfire and evacuation.

Sgt. Garibay, who has helped conduct numerous evacuations in Sisters Country over the past decades, said the event was exceptionally well organized and laid out and was pleased to see how much information was being made available to local residents.

He said that now is the time to be thinking about wildfire defense and evacuation preparation. Recent catastrophic fires have shown that a dangerous situation can develop very quickly, leaving little time to prepare.

“If you can do these things in April and May, and get your family prepared, it could save you those extra 15 minutes, and that can make the difference,” he said.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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