Fire-Safe Your Home

Tree-branches-rubbing-on-roofIf you live in a suburban neighborhood or in the more rural reaches of Multnomah County, you need to be ready for fire near your home. In 1940 and 1951, fires burned through portions of the West Hills during dry conditions and high winds. To prepare for fire season, there are a few things you can do to reduce wildfire risk around your home:

• Keep debris, dead leaves, and twigs off of the roof and out of gutters. Sparks can travel great distances from fires and ignite dry vegetation that gathers on or around the home.

• Keep debris and flammable items away from wood decks. At least one fire spread after a broom was ignited by a spark.

• Stack firewood at least 30 feet from the house.

• Prune tree branches that are touching the house or roof.

• Replace highly flammable plants with fire-resistant plants. Juniper is one example of a highly flammable plant, with abundant oil and resin and accumulated dead needles. Plantings within 20-30 feet of the home are more at risk of spreading fire. Armenian blackberry can cause a wildfire hazard as well, and could be replaced by native vegetation. We encourage you to choose from our list of locally available, fire-resistant native plants. Fire resistant plants tend to be low in volatile oils and resins and they’re also known for readily shedding dead leaves and branches.

• Fires tend to move up slopes rather than down them, and many homes on NW Skyline, McNamee, Newberry and other roads are at the top of slopes leaving them susceptible to spreading fires.

• Keep access open to your home and property. In the event of an emergency, wildfire engines and trucks need to be able to drive up forest roads quickly.

Map of a portion of western Multnomah County with phone numbers for fire management agenciesThe best way to find out what fireproofing steps you can take for your property is to talk to your local fire department about a home-wildfire risk assessment. Depending on where you live, Oregon Department of Forestry (Columbia City: 503-397-2636; Forest Grove: 503-357-2191), Portland Fire & Rescue (503-823-3700), or Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (503-697-9418) will come out to do a checklist and consultation.

If you live within Portland city limits, you can get a Wildland Urban Interface Home Assessment from Portland Fire & Rescue. Their program aims to help residents protect their homes from a wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire, while maintaining a sustainable ecosystem balance.

Learn more about preparing for wildfire from the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA® program: How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires, or Oregon State University Extension Service: Keeping Your Home and Property Safe from Wildfire. Both guide residents on how to maintain three zones of defensible space around homes: the Immediate Zone: 0 to 5 feet around the house; Intermediate Zone: 5 to 30 feet; and the Extended Zone: 30 to 100 feet.

For further information on wildfire risk reduction contact Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr at or 503-238-4775, ext. 109.


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