If the last few years, especially 2020, have taught us anything, it is that we need to start having serious conversations about the risks our community faces from a major urban fire. On July 10, 2021, the Eugene/Springfield Fire Department was called to put out three separate fires on the south side of Skinner’s Butte. It took them 45 minutes and two trees were a total loss. What if it hadn’t gone quite so well?
That fire didn’t just burn some grass and trees. It heightened my alarm at the potential loss of Eugene’s first Historic District that is situated mere feet from the edge of that fire. The Campbell House (c 1892), the Mims House (c 1870), and Shelton McMurphey Johnson House (1888) are just a few of those historic buildings that could be lost if a fire got out of control in the heart of downtown Eugene.
Eugene has spent a lot of time working on keeping the potential fire hazards at bay, including banning fireworks in certain parts of town. However, I believe it’s time to start talking to all of our neighbors about what they can do to help with this effort. How can urban homeowners work on their defensible space around their property? This is not just a rural issue. We all need to work in our own backyards.
I encourage you to call your city counselor or neighborhood association. Ask if they know how we can work on defensible space in Eugene.
Shelton McMurphey Johnson House