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The Oregon Garden Fire Safety House to serve as life-sized teaching tool

Oregon Garden House
This 1970s-era home at The Oregon Garden in Silverton is being remodeled into an exhibit that will feature fire-resistant construction materials as well as attractive landscaping designed to protect a home from encroaching wildfire

(SILVERTON, Ore.) - The Oregon Garden Foundation is excited to announce a partnership to develop the first full-scale fire prevention and safety house in the nation. Teaming with Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), Moonstone Garden Management, Inc., and Oregon State University (OSU), the foundation will use grant funds and donations to remodel a home located on The Oregon Garden property in Silverton into one that showcases fire-resistant landscaping and building construction on the outside and home fire prevention and safety on the inside.

A memorandum of understanding among the five entities for development of the exhibit will be signed in a public ceremony at 10 a.m. on Oct. 8 at The Oregon Garden.

A $600,000 Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will fund development of fire prevention interpretive displays for the exhibit. The grant dollars will also pay for production of a video program chronicling the remodeling work. It will serve as an educational tool for homeowners showing step-by-step how to make their own property less vulnerable to wildfire.

In 2009, ODF's Malcolm Hiatt approached The Oregon Garden Foundation about using a house at the popular visitor site for a fire prevention exhibit.

"There was a 70s-era house on the property in need of remodeling," Hiatt said. "Our thought was to fix it up as a model of what homeowners in the wildland-urban interface could do with their own homes to make them less vulnerable to wildfire."

ODF will oversee improvements to the property and home's exterior, while the OSFM will manage renovations inside the home.

"We are thrilled to be a part of this project to raise awareness of home fire prevention and safety," said State Fire Marshal Randy Simpson. "Visitors will get a first-hand look at the things they can do to improve the safety of their families."

OSU Extension Service is also lending its expertise to the home redo. Forestry Extension Specialist Stephen Fitzgerald will help to draft a fire-resistant landscaping plan for the property. He said it is a common misconception that a "moonscape" must surround a home to protect it from wildfire.

"There's a long list of ornamental plants that are both attractive and resistant to fire," Fitzgerald said.

The project began to take shape last year when ODF and OSFM collaborated to seek funding from FEMA. Upon receipt of the $600,000 grant in June 2010, the two state agencies, along with The Oregon Garden Foundation, formed additional partnerships with OSU and Moonstone Garden Management, which will manage the facility once the exhibit is completed. Moonstone Garden Management manages The Oregon Garden and owns several garden-themed visitor facilities along the West Coast including The Oregon Garden Resort.

The project is currently in the final design stages, with construction to begin on Oct. 8 with removal of the roof. When completed in July 2011, The Oregon Garden Fire Safety House will demonstrate how any home can be retrofitted to improve its survivability in the event of a wildfire, and the best practices homeowners can employ for fire prevention and safety in the wildland-urban interface.

More information about The Oregon Garden, including driving directions, can be found at: A special reduced admission of $5 will be offered on Friday, Oct. 8 in celebration of the memorandum of understanding signing ceremony. Members of The Oregon Garden receive free admission.

The Oregon Garden is currently accepting applications for a variety of volunteer positions. For more information, or to receive an application, contact the Volunteer Coordinator, 503-874-2533.

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