Oregonians Should Defend Homes From Wildfires With Or Without Defensible Spaces Program Aid

Oregon State Fire Marshal spokesperson Alison Green has indicated that for those living in the state, being affected by wildfires is a matter of when not if.

The fire department has set up several measures to help residents protect their homes should wildfires reach them and warned that wildfires are not limited to the dry eastern areas but are also likely to affect the wetter western part of Oregon.


Oregon Defensible Spaces Program

As climate change is expected to increase the intensity and frequency of wildfires, and wildfire smoke warnings need improvement, wildfires are also reaching cities. In Oregon, 3000 homes in  Phoenix, Talent, Detroit, and Blue River in burned in the 2020 wildfires, and towns further afield have also been devastated. Green said it’s a myth that living in a suburban area means you’re safe from wildfires.

As a result, the Oregon State Fire Marshal would like Oregonians to create more defensible space around their homes, in the area between the house and a possible wildfire. Vegetation modified to reduce the threat also helps firefighters defend the house. Some of their programs include helping residents clear combustible fuels out of greenway spaces and bringing in wood chippers to vulnerable areas for people to blitz their yard debris for free.

Residents should do things like installing a metal roof that is less susceptible to fire embers and keeping the grass mowed. Moving firewood away from the house, and pruning the trees so a grass fire can’t climb into the canopy also help. The state has a $250 defensible spaces reimbursement program available to 50 prioritized communities.

Find Defensible Spaces Program here: Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Defensible Space Program Assessment Program Guidelines

Firefighters have confirmed that sometimes they have to choose which houses to save in a wildfire, and this decision could depend on who has cleared away brush and who hasn’t. One of the Deputy Fire Marshals, Bryan Dorris said, “There are times when we have to write off homes because they’re not defendable.”

Some have questioned whether $250 is enough to help clear a yard. Green said that it would depend on the work that needs to be done. If it’s simply removing pine needles from a gutter by a contractor, it should be sufficient but she doubts that this would cover things such as removing a large tree.


Wildfire Prevention And Safety

To prevent wildfires from reaching homes, there are many measures that can be taken by residents and a few recommended by the Oregon State Fire Marshal include:

  • Relocate flammable stuff like wood and propane tanks.
  • Replace mulch with rocks.
  • Clear away pine needles.
  • Remove debris from gutters.
  • Keep the yard well-watered.
  • Prune overhanging branches.
  • Plant fire-resistant vegetation.

See also: Oregon Active Large Fires Map and tips on Wildfire Safety and Prevention

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