Current situation

Check with your local district or forest protection association for restrictions or use ODF's fire restrictions and closures webpage for the latest details at https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

New post-wildfire resource guide now available to help communities cope with flood and debris flow danger


SALEM, Ore. – Autumn rains may have ended Oregon’s wildfire season but not the risk of floods and debris flows following in their wake. That is why a working group of state and federal agencies have  released a new playbook. The playbook will aid local officials in finding resources to help prevent or cope with potentially catastrophic wildfire after-effects.
Above: After intense wildfires, burned soils may be less able
to absorb runoff, raising the risk of flooding or debris flows.
 
 

Wildfires burned more than 856,000 acres this year across all of Oregon, well above the 10-year average of approximately 500,000 acres, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Chief of Fire Protection Doug Grafe.
 

High intensity wildfires can destroy protective vegetation and alter soil so it is less able to absorb rainfall and snowmelt,” said Grafe. “After such fires, there can be an increased risk of flooding or debris flows.”
 
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, landslides (also known as debris flows) cause about $3.5 billion (in 2001 dollars) in damage in the U.S. each year, and claim between 25 to 50 lives. A prime example is the debris flow that hit Montecito in Southern California in January of this year. Just weeks after the Thomas Fire burned the hills above the town of about 9,000, a debris flow swept through, killing more than 20 people.

Ryan Cahill, hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said his agency worked with several partners to compile and complete the guide, including:

·       Natural Resources Conservation Service

·       Oregon Department of Forestry

·       Oregon Emergency Management

·       Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development

·       U.S. Forest Service

·       U.S. Geological Survey

“Federal and state partners already work together to suppress wildfires, so it was natural for us to come together to prepare a guide for community leaders on what to do after wildfires,” said Cahill. “The playbook we produced explains what to do to reduce the risk from floods and debris flows, identifies the resources available to help do that, and where to find those resources,” said Cahill.

Among steps Cahill said at-risk communities can take, one is designating in advance where evacuation centers will be, including animal-friendly locations where pets and livestock can receive care. Alert systems, such as reverse 9-1-1 calls, should also be organized and periodically tested.
 

All government entities and critical emergency organizations, such as hospitals, utilities, food banks and schools, should know their roles in a community flood or debris flow emergency. Then be equipped and prepared to carry out those plans.
 

Although the playbook is intended for elected local officials and emergency managers, individuals can help protect themselves as well.
 

“Property owners and those living and working near rivers where catastrophic fires have occurred should be aware of their level of risk and take appropriate preparedness actions,” said Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps. “This includes having ‘two-weeks ready’ preparedness supplies handy, signing up for emergency notification systems where you live, and reviewing insurance coverage to make sure your home is protected for hazards like flooding and landslides.”  
 

The playbook can be accessed at:
 

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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.


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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.

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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.