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Friday, September 26, 2014

FireWise communities spreading across SW Oregon

September 26, 2014
Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Southwest Oregon District

Kaitlyn Webb, Medford Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 620-1572
John O’Connor, Medford Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 621-1168                

An active fire season in southwest Oregon comes as no surprise. Both smoky skies accompanied by frequent firefighter traffic are common sights. Damage of personal property and livelihood due to forest fires are also a concern—a concern that has recently been attracting more attention and the prompting of local action. Individuals are understanding the importance of defensible space around their homes as well as their neighborhoods. Firewise, a nationwide program is aiding in the promotion of this awareness and in taking steps to empower local communities to take action. There are currently 55 recognized Firewise Communities in Oregon, 6 of which have been established in 2014.

John O’Connor, a Firewise Specialist with the Oregon Department of Forestry describes this program as, “Neighbors working with neighbors to help make their communities safer from wildfire.” The goal is to create communities that can survive fires through fuels reduction. Since wildfires threaten entire communities, not just a single home, it is crucial for all members to be aware of elements that increase fire potential so that these can be eliminated in order to create defensible space around homes and properties. In urban areas, fire can jump from home to home. In more rural areas, fire can feed off the flammable vegetation between properties, which means that it must be a communal effort to create safer communities.

Flames do not have to be surrounding a neighborhood for the structures and properties to be at risk. Fire-spreading embers can drift miles from the actual fire presenting a danger to surrounding residents. Wisely selecting less flammable building materials for the roof and keeping gutters and roofs clear of leaves or needles can minimize the risk of ignition from drifting embers. Elements such as untreated decks or woodpiles near a home increase vulnerability to ignition and should be mitigated.

Firewise offers a wealth of information, property assessments, possible funding for fuel reduction assistance, as well as continual support and guidance regarding the plans a community sets in place for future sustainability and improvement of defensible space.

The rewards of a proactive and fire aware community far outweigh the efforts required. Being a Firewise Community enhances the safety of your home, builds community, and provides a framework for future action. Being fire ready reduces the risk of damaged structures and property in the event of a fire.

Contact one of these Firewise Communities specialists to learn how your neighborhood can become more resilient to wildfire by becoming a Firewise Community or visit

John O’Connor, Josephine County Firewise, (541) 621-1168 Bob Schumacher, Grants Pass Fire and Rescue, (541) 450-6205 Ashley Lara, Ashland Fire and Rescue, (541) 552-2231


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Comments and questions

The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity.

Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters predictions that Oregon would see above average temperatures and below average rainfall in the summer of 2018 proved true. Almost all of Oregon was abnormally dry this summer, with a majority of the state in moderate to severe drought. Many areas posted record high temperatures or record strings of hot days. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

What we do

Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

Fire suppression policy
The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


About Me

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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.