Summer is coming: How to prepare for wildfires

May is Wildfire Preparation Month, so we’re providing the Oregon Forests Forever community with tips on how to best prepare for the coming summer and wildfire season in Oregon. (Warning: It looks dry out there).

The St. Helens Chronicle recently compiled a helpful list from the Oregon Department of Forestry and its partners.


“The roof is the most critical part of the house when it comes to wildfire protection,” Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker said. “Embers can collect and ignite on the roof, in gutters and enter unscreened openings around the house. Although non-combustible roofing material is preferred, regardless of the construction, keep roofs, gutters and eave

s clear of all leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris.”


To reduce the risk, fire officials suggest removing dead vegetation a minimum of 30 feet around your house and other structures. 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. Maintain a 5-foot fire-free area closest to the home using nonflammable landscaping material and fire-resistant plants.


“Defensible space is a property’s first line of defense against wildfire,” says Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “Creating and maintaining defensible space around homes can improve your property’s likelihood of surviving a wildfire. Having defensible space also makes it safer for firefighters who may have to defend someone’s home.”

Keep Oregon Green also has tips on how to strengthen the defensible space around your house to reduce your risk of fires spreading.


Homeowners should also consider access issues for large fire trucks. Long driveways should be at least 12-feet-wide, have 10 feet of vegetation clearance from the centerline out, and about 14-feet-overhead. Large vehicle turnaround areas are critical for your safety as well as firefighter safety.


“Wildfires can come without warning and move quickly, so residents need to prepare now in case they have to leave their home,” Phelps said. “Make sure to put together a ‘Go Kit,’ register for emergency notification systems in your community, and make a plan where your family will go and how you will stay in contact if evacuated.”

For more information on how to prepare for wildfires, visit the Oregon Department of Forestry’s website.


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