Have you done enough to protect your home from wildfire? That’s the question being posed to Oregonians as the region prepares for Wildfire Awareness Week May 6-12.
In a unified proclamation, governors from Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and California have joined to encourage homeowners to begin thinking about the approaching fire season by promoting defensible space to protect lives, homes, and property from wildfires.
Keep Oregon Green Association, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, forest protective associations, and federal wildfire agencies are taking this opportunity to promote defensible space around homes before fire strikes this summer.
“It’s all about life safety, forest health and home preservation,” says Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “Reducing the risk increases the chances of homes surviving a wildfire while also creating a safer place for firefighters to work.”
To reduce the risk, fire officials suggest removing dead vegetation a minimum of 30 feet around homes. In most cases, trees and healthy plants do not need to be removed. However, trees should be pruned and grass kept short and green to keep fire on the ground and more manageable by fire crews. Information about fire resistant landscaping can be obtained at local nurseries or OSU Extension agents.
The roof is the most critical part of the house when it comes to wildfire protection. Embers can collect and ignite on the roof, in gutters, and unscreened openings around the house. Non combustible roofing material is preferred. But regardless of the construction, keep roofs, gutters and eaves clear of all leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris.
"Structure fires are also a risk factor in starting wildfires," says State Fire Marshal Mark Wallace. "Last year, 29 structure fires developed into wildfires on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands. This is just another reason to build and maintain defensible space around your homes.”
Homeowners should also keep access in mind for large fire trucks. Long driveways should be at least 12 feet wide, have 10 feet of vegetation clearance from the center line out, and about 14 feet overhead. Large vehicle turnaround areas are also critical for your safety as well as firefighters.
It is the homeowners’ responsibility to protect their homes by building defensible space. For more information, visit Keep Oregon Green’s website at http://www.keeporegongreen.org/ or call your nearest Oregon Department of Forestry or forest protective association office.