Fire awareness today and every day
05.18.2021

May is officially Wildfire Awareness Month. But really, fire awareness and prevention is something we should be practicing every day, especially as we enter the dry summer months.

The catastrophic Labor Day wildfires of 2020 in Oregon are still a fresh reminder of how deadly and quick wildfires can be. The goal of Wildfire Awareness Month is to encourage all citizens to take steps to better prepare their home and communities for wildfires, and work toward becoming a fire-adapted community. Numerous fire prevention agencies and organizations are working together to increase awareness of human-caused wildfires by offering opportunities for people to participate in community fire prevention projects.

When it comes to preventing wildfires, there’s a lot at stake – lives, personal property, and the many values provided by Oregon’s forests and rangelands. In the wildland-urban interface, where residential areas abut forests and other wildlands, wildfires are often started by human activity such as debris burning or lawn mowing, and then spread to the forest. Once underway, a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses.

The good news is that simple prevention strategies can go a long way toward making your home, family and community safer. Spring is the perfect time to remove dead, flammable vegetation and limb up trees around the yard, making it less likely for a wildfire to spread to your home. Many Oregonians are also gearing up right now for the summer camping season, providing a great opportunity to refresh yourself on campfire safety to prevent the next forest fire.

In that spirit, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute recently awarded a $200,000 grant to the nonprofit Keep Oregon Green Association that will allow them to ramp up their wildfire prevention outreach of encouraging the public to create defensible space around their homes and prevent careless, unwanted wildfires this summer.

About 75% of the wildfires that break out in Oregon each year are human-caused. The number one cause is debris burns, followed by equipment and campfires, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. We all have a part to play and we can make a difference. The following are fire awareness and prevention actions you can take:

1.      Prepare yourself and your family for a potential evacuation:

·       watch the Oregon State University webinar Be ready, Be Set, Go!

·       build an emergency kit

 

2.      Be aware of your actions and the risks they pose at home and at work:

·       watch the Fire Safe Home video

·       prepare your home for wildfire

 

3.      Be aware of your actions and the risks they pose while out and about:

·       watch the Fire Safety Fact Break video

·       dive into fire prevention with Oregon Department of Forestry, including knowing fire closures

Thank you to all the firefighters and support crews who are preparing for the upcoming season. (Take a look inside the career of one courageous wildland firefighter here). Please help firefighters by reducing the risks of fires through being fire aware and working with your local fire department to be educated about community preparedness and evacuation plans.

If you are a forest landowner, there are also numerous actions you can also take to ensure the health of your forest and mitigate the potential risks from wildfire. Those topics are explored on the landowner education website KnowYourForest.org.

As Smokey Bear reminds us, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

From the forest,

Julie Woodward

Senior Manager of Forestry Education

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