Oregonians Urged to Create Defensible Space to be Better Prepared for Wildfire

With much of Oregon seeing another year of continued drought and the wildfire outlook for this summer very concerning, the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal would like to remind Oregonians of the importance of defensible space around their home and property. 

Good defensible space can not only prevent embers from igniting your home, but it can also prevent flames from reaching your home altogether. You can protect your home and community from wildfire with some simple steps. 

A key to good defensible space is to keep it defined, keep grass and weeds cut low and always be prepared to respond to wildfire. With this in mind, the Office of State Fire Marshal urges you to look around your property. Look for areas where glowing embers could ignite spot fires and vulnerable areas like decks, patios, and fences that can spread flames to your home. The most significant risk of buildings catching on fire during a wildfire is the advancing ember shower that can reach your property long before an actual flame front. 

“Wildfire safety starts with all of us and our property. Now is a good time to take action to prepare our homes, families, and communities for wildfires by starting on our property before there is smoke on the horizon,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said. 

To address the risk of wildfire, the Office of State Fire Marshal recommends the following steps people can take right now to help protect themselves against the upcoming fire season: 

  • Clear roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles that could catch embers
  • Ensure your roof is in good repair
  • Move any flammable material away from exterior walls, i.e., mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles
  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches
  • Give your home a non-combustible area where a fire in the landscape can’t reach your home
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed during high fire danger conditions.
  • Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns.

While defensible space at the individual home offers protection, communities can be better protected when every home in the area creates defensible space. This significantly increases the chances that more homes will survive a wildfire event. 

“By taking a neighborhood approach to defensible space and community preparedness, you also protect our firefighters,” Ruiz-Temple said. “Ultimately, individuals taking the right steps on their property before fire season will make firefighters safer and more effective.” https://www.oregon.gov/osp/programs/sfm/pages/default.aspx

Create defensible space against wildfires by limiting fire fuels in the immediate, intermediate, and extended zones around the home

In high-risk fire hazard areas, such as at the wildland-urban interface (WUI), create defensible space between the house and potential wildfire fuels to protect the building from ignition during a wildfire event.

  • Immediate zone: Establish and maintain a noncombustible zone that includes the house and the area within a 5-foot perimeter around the house by removing vegetation and installing noncombustible ground cover materials such as rock, stone, gravel, or pavers. No tree branches should extend into this space. Follow best practices for selecting fire-resistant materials and constructing the home for fire-resistance.
  • Intermediate zone: In the area between 5 feet and 30 feet from the perimeter of the house, employ noncombustible landscaping, remove excess vegetation, and leave in place or plant only vegetation that is selected and spaced to reduce the risk of wildfire. Employ noncombustible or low-fire-risk ground covers to interrupt the potential path of an oncoming fire. Canopies (branches) of mature trees should be at least 10 feet from the structure and at least 18 feet apart, or more on slopes.
  • Extended zone: In the area between 30 feet and 100 feet from the perimeter of the house, remove excess vegetation and leave in place or plant only vegetation that is selected and spaced to reduce the risk of wildfire. Use noncombustible or low-fire-risk ground covers to interrupt the potential path of an oncoming fire. At 30 to 60 feet from the home, canopies of mature trees should be at least 12 feet apart from each other. At 60 or more feet from the home, canopies of mature trees should be at least 6 feet apart from each other.
  • Provide guidance to the homeowner for ongoing reducing, pruning, and thinning of vegetation and removal of debris in these zones to minimize potential wildfire fuel. 

https://basc.pnnl.gov/resource-guides/defensible-space-protection-against-wildfires

SOURCE: State Fire Marshal (LR Shaw) (www.willamettevalleymagazine.com)

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