Josephine County May Ease Firefighting Requirements to Obtain Building Permits
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The onus may soon no longer fall on Josephine County property owners to prove they have fire protection measures to obtain building permits. If the proposed changes to the county code are approved, only property owners living on forest lands have to meet this requirement.
The changes, if any, will be announced on Valentine’s Day, 14 February, when the Josephine County Commission reconvenes after hearing evidence to reevaluate the fire protection county code earlier this week.
At present, all property owners living outside Grants Pass have to prove that:
- They reside in a fire district
- Pay for private fire services
- Have firefighting resources
The proposed changes to the county code will allow landowners to use wildfire protection services from the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). Presently, a rural metro fire station outside Grants Pass is the only remaining private firefighting company protecting Josephine County.
The Pros and the Cons
Objections to the proposals were raised at the hearing by Steve Rouse of Rogue Advocates, a land use group that fears these changes could escalate the fire risk in some areas.
Rouse told the hearing that property owners should, at the least, have firefighting abilities to protect their lands. Without that ability, fires could spread rapidly, consuming adjoining lands.
But county commissioners argued the proposed changes would recognize existing wildfire protection laws and, by eliminating the need for building permits, make it easier for rural landowners to develop their properties.
The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) was not asked for input on the proposed changes. The changes will not impact how it fights wildfires, says Public Information Officer, Natalie Weber. She confirmed that the ODF does not fight structure fires, and only responds to fires that can potentially spread to wild lands.
Oregon Forests Represent a $60 billion Asset
According to the Oregon government website, the OFD protects 16 million acres of forest worth $60 billion. The land consists of state, public, and privately owned forests.
The bulk of the lands protected by the OFD are working forests that provide jobs and produce revenue. Timber is a resource crucial to Oregon’s economy and the OFD is committed to an efficient firefighting code. The fire protection services offered by the OFD also save valuable fish and wildlife ecosystems.