Friday, May 3, 2013

Wildfire Awareness Week Begins This Weekend

Wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes: Thoughtful planning can minimize the impact whenever these natural disasters occur. And in the case of wildfires, homeowners often can avert damage entirely by following some basic steps to protect their home and property.

During Oregon Wildfire Awareness Week May 5-11, fire protection agencies will be sending that message to Oregonians most at risk from wildfire - those who dwell in the wildland-urban interface. It’s not just for the few of us that live deep in the forest. People at risk from wildfire are also those in suburban subdivisions located near a stand of timber.

Ashland residents are encouraged to take advantage of the second annual Firewise Clean-Up Day on May 5.

Landscaping can beautify a home and also reduce the fire threat. There are two key things to remember: spacing, and species. Planting trees and shrubs with enough distance between them can hinder a wildfire from burning through the vegetation and reaching the home. Once planted, the trees and shrubs must be maintained by periodic trimming and pruning. A well-watered lawn mowed short also strengthens the barrier to fire.

Some shrubs, in addition to being attractive, also resist fire. Oregon State University Extension publishes “Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes” available free at Oregon State University Extension Service offices, and Oregon Dept. of Forestry unit offices. These plants can be damaged or even killed by fire. But their foliage and stems do not significantly contribute to the fuel and, therefore, the fire’s intensity. Fire-resistant plant species must be watered and kept trimmed to maximize the buffer effect against a wildfire. Many have the advantage of requiring less care than common ornamentals.

In preparing for the arrival of warm, dry weather, the most important thing is to get into the fire season mode. From late spring through early fall, Oregonians live in a wildfire environment. Whenever we work or play in the outdoors during this time, fire safety must be foremost in our minds.
“Fire was here first and will always be a part of Oregon’s forested landscape,” Oregon State Forester Doug Decker said. “For property owners on the forest fringe, some planning ahead now—and a weekend of outdoor work this spring—can make a difference when we get into the heart of fire season and high fire danger this summer. You can give our firefighters an extra edge by being wildfire aware and ready yourselves.”

For helpful tips on wildfire safety at home and in the forest, visit the Keep Oregon Green Association website. Another resource is the Firewise Toolkit.

This year the governors of Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Idaho signed a joint proclamation declaring Wildfire Awareness Week.