Oregon Department of Forestry—More and more Oregonians are living in what is known as the wildland-urban interface – where homes and other structures are built in or near forests. This population expansion into rural areas has increased the risk of human-caused fires in the forest and has also placed more lives and property in the potential path of fires from forest lands.
Today, more than a quarter-million homes in Oregon are at high risk from wildfire. Out of the 15.8 million acres of private and public forestland protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, 3.5 million acres are considered wildland-urban interface.
On average, about two-thirds of the 1,100-odd fires on state-protected lands each year are caused by people, with the majority of them preventable. Following firework rules, burning debris responsibly, using off-road vehicle safety, and creating defensible spaces are among the many ways you can prevent a forest fire.
We can start by discussing fireworks.
Everyone enjoys a great fireworks show – especially when celebrating our country’s independence on the Fourth of July. However, even legal fireworks can start wildfires, and if you or a child under your supervision causes a wildfire with fireworks, you may be liable to pay the fire suppression costs. On a large fire, this can run into millions of dollars. Safety tips: Fireworks are prohibited from most forested areas as well as the wildland-urban interface. In areas where fireworks are allowed, they must be of a type that does not fly, explode, or travel more than 12 feet along the ground. Bottle rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers are illegal in Oregon.
This past year, 206 debris burns turned into wildfires, burning more than 400 acres and costing over $280,000 to suppress. The majority of these fires were started on small parcels of land, in the wildland-urban interface, by the landowners. Safety Tip: Many communities offer services for disposal of woody debris. Home composting and chipping are also excellent ways to dispose of your debris
Creating defensible space around your home is the best way to protect your home from wildfire. The first 30 feet surrounding your home – referred to as the primary ignition zone – is the most critical. Safety tip: The most common way for a wildfire to damage or destroy a home in the wildland-urban interface results from a pile-up of debris, particularly in gutters or any any “valleys” that can catch debris that embers and sparks can blow onto.
Keeping flammable materials away from the adjacent area of your home, and using fire-resistant plants can greatly reduce your wildfire risk. Safety tips: Fire-resistant plants (plants that have moist and supple leaves an low sap and resin) can be used to create a fuel break that reduces and blocks intense heat. Even fire-resistant plants will burn if not well-maintained, so be sure to keep all of your landscape plants healthy with watering and pruning. Annuals also can be part of a fire-resistant landscape if well watered and maintained, as can a well-maintained lawn.
Each year users of motorcycles and off-road vehicles – usually unknowingly – are responsible for human-caused wildfires. Safety tips: Always check with the local fire district to learn of any fire restrictions that are in effect in the area you will be riding, or ride on the trails designated for off-highway vehicles. Make sure your vehicle’s exhaust system has an approved spark arrester and avoid riding or stopping in tall grass or brush at all times.
Each year, escaped campfires cause wildfires, destroying forest resources and costing precious dollars to suppress. Nothing beats a campfire – for warmth and atmosphere, but campfires can also be dangerous. Safety Tips: Call the local fire district to ensure open fires are allowed and rules for fire tools that apply to your campsite. Select a site away from buildings and fallen trees or low branches and position it away from your tent. Scrape an area to bare earth for at least 5 feet on all sides. When you leave the campfire, make sure you put it out—DEAD OUT!
For all the Oregon Department of Forestry safety tips click here
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