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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Prepare for wildfires during Wildfire Awareness Month

In the wake of last year’s serious wildfire season, the governors of Oregon and nine other Western states have proclaimed May 2018 as Wildfire Awareness Month. The chief executives signed a joint proclamation encouraging all citizens to “take steps to better prepare their home and communities for wildfires and work toward becoming a fire-adapted community."

Above: People who live in or near forest or grasslands
should clear vegetation and other fuels
from near their home to reduce the risk from wildfire.
During May, the 10 states are partnering with fire prevention agencies and organizations to increase awareness of wildfires. In Oregon, there are new public service announcements, some featuring Gov. Kate Brown. The announcements explain how every Oregonian can take steps to keep their home and the state safer from wildfire.

Kris Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association, said, “The Governor, along with the Keep Oregon Green Association, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, is seeking the public’s help to prevent human-caused wildfires like the ones that swept the state last summer.”

Wildfires – 45% of which were caused by humans – burned approximately 717,000 acres statewide last year, disrupting travel, degrading air quality, damaging trails and destroying homes and other resources.

“When it comes to preventing wildfires, there’s a lot at stake – lives, personal property, and the many resources provided by Oregon’s forests and rangelands,” said Babbs. “People caused more than 900 wildfires in Oregon last year. So people can make a big difference in reducing the number of wildfires.”  

”It is vital that all Oregonians work with their neighbors to plan and prepare for fire season, especially in those areas currently experiencing drought as well as the more fire-prone landscapes of central and southwest Oregon. Educating yourself now about how fires can get started will be key in reducing wildfire starts,” said Babbs.

She said Wildfire Awareness Month will provide lots of opportunities for people to educate themselves about wildfire causes and consequences and to participate in community fire prevention projects.

Wildfires can start at home
Wildfires in the wildland-urban interface often are started by human activity, such as debris burning or lawn mowing, and then spread to the forest. Once underway, a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses.

Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields said, “Simple prevention strategies can make your home, family and community much safer. Spring is the perfect time to remove dead or flammable vegetation from around houses and other structures and to limb up trees around the yard. The goal is to reduce nearby fuels that pose a fire risk,” he said.

To get an early start on Wildfire Awareness Month, join your neighbors in reducing your community’s wildfire risk by taking part in National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday, May 5. The National Fire Protection Association has teamed up with State Farm Insurance to encourage residents to commit a couple of hours, or the entire day, to raising wildfire awareness and working on projects that can protect homes and entire communities from the threat of fire.

To learn even more, from May through June the World Forestry Center in northwest Portland is hosting a family-friendly exhibit about wildfire produced by the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Keep Oregon Green Association. Smokey Bear will be on site on Saturday, May 5 to kick off the exhibit and again on Saturday, June 9. There will be displays of fire-resistant plants and maps showing Oregon wildfires.

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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.