If you live in a suburban neighborhood, near Forest Park or other large forested area, 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:
1) Clear away debris and flammable items
• It’s important to keep tree 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 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 overhanging tree branches that are touching the house or roof.
2) Choose fire-resistant plants
• If you are planting new plants close to a home or other structure, choose fire-resistant plant , especially if you are in a more fire-prone forested area. Fire-resistant plants are known to have moist and supple leaves; low amounts of sap, resin, or volatile oils; and low amounts of retained dead material like leaves and branches. These plants won’t add significant fuel to a fire and therefore won’t lead to increased fire intensity. They are not “fire proof” plants, but they’re thought to be safer near a home on a forested property than other landscaping options. These fire-resistant plants native to our area are referenced in Oregon State University Extension’s publication Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes. Most of the species are readily available from various native plant nurseries in the Willamette Valley and Northwest Oregon, and will also help provide wildlife and pollinator habitat.
• Replace existing 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.
3) Get a home fire risk assessment
• 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.
• The 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. Portland Fire & Rescue’s assessment program aims to help residents reduce fire risk in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) – where a city transitions into a forested setting – while maintaining a sustainable ecosystem balance. Many of the streets around Forest Park, Marquam Nature Park, or George Himes City Park would qualify as WUI. Complete a Wildland Urban Interface Home Assessment Application Form or call 503-823-3700. If you are outside of Multnomah County, your application will be referred to the correct agency.
• Agencies conducting fire risk assessments and consultations outside of Multnomah County: Oregon Department of Forestry (Columbia City: 503-397-2636; Forest Grove: 503-357-2191), or Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (503-697-9418).
• 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 Interim Forest Conservationist, Laura Taylor firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-238-4775, ext. 112.