Fire season came early for some parts of Oregon this year, and all signs point to the potential for significant wildfires around the state during 2021. May is Wildfire Awareness Month in Oregon, and the Office of State Fire Marshal has said it’s not too early to take steps to protect our homes and communities from wildfire.
Lincoln County had not been severely impacted by wildfires for quite some time — until last year. Although there was no loss of life in the Echo Mountain Complex fire that broke out on Labor Day 2020, hundreds of homes in north Lincoln County were destroyed, and the county is still picking up the pieces from that catastrophe.
Although the rain was plentiful during the early part of this year, the tap seems to have been shut off, and we are now experiencing drier than normal conditions. To address the risk of wildfire, people are encouraged to take the following steps right now to help protect themselves against the upcoming fire season:
• Clear roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers;
• Ensure your roof is in good repair;
• Move any flammable material away from exterior walls, i.e., mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles;
• Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches;
• Give your home a non-combustible area where a fire in the landscape can't reach your home, strive for a 5-foot perimeter;
• Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches;
• Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns. Prune trees up to six to 10 feet from the ground; shorter trees do not exceed one-third of the overall tree height.
And although campfires are still being allowed in most places, that’s another area where people need to exercise caution, especially as we approach the Memorial Day weekend, which for many is considered to be the start of camping season. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department says, “Consider ways to build a safe campfire as you start your summer camping preparations. Also, keep in mind that our drier than normal spring weather is a concern for Oregon and the West. Be sure to research conditions for the area near where you’re camping before you head out.”
It’s definitely something to be mindful of. If we learned anything from last year’s fires, it’s that no place is immune from the threat. To learn more about wildfire safety, go online at keeporegongreen.org/prevent-wildfires.