Deschutes County Commissioners will vote on a motion this week to remove “unsafe encampments” on county-owned land.
To be deemed unsafe, camps will have to pose a repeated fire risk, be involved in the production and distribution of illicit drugs, be spreading disease or other hazardous activities.
“The driver of all of this is that there are some places on county property where we have encampments that are causing significant immediate public safety risks,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang.
Elizabeth Deroche, a Juniper Ridge resident who lives with her two children and dogs, would have to move if her set-up was considered unsafe. She told us she tries to be as safe as possible.
“We have fire extinguishers. We have five-gallon jugs of water. We buy cases of water for that reason and then we also have shovels to cover the fire with dirt, if anything. I have an aluminum firewall around my trailer where the wood stove is,” said Deroche.
A fire that burned 39 acres north of Bend in August 2020 was started in Juniper Ridge.
“A lot of people light other people’s trailers on fire. They blow up propane tanks, light fires. Last summer we had a trailer burn down because somebody got mad at his girlfriend and lit her whole entire trailer on fire,” said Deroche.
While, as far as we know, Deroche has not been listed as “unsafe,” she has plenty of equipment that could catch fire.
“I have a wood stove. I have every precaution to be able to use it and not catch on fire. I use it for cooking, for heat and for even boiling water. I have a buddy heater to keep warm in my living room for my kids, and then I have a camping stove,” said Deroche.
Commissioner Chang added the motion will focus on individual, repeat offenders.
“In the scenario where we have a specific encampment that has almost caused wildfires on multiple occasions, we would be trying to make the entire encampment go away,” said Chang.
The meeting will be at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.