Sessions planned to explain new wildfire risk map

·3 min read

Jul. 20—Oregon Department of Forestry will hold local community information sessions July 26 and 27 about a new statewide fire risk map released June 30 that will affect about 80,000 property owners who live or own land in wildfire-prone areas.

Each session will include a presentation about the map's function and purpose, how wildfire risk is assessed and how property owners can appeal their assigned risk class, according to a news advisory issued Tuesday.

Time will be available during the sessions to address questions from people who attend.

The wildland-urban interface and statewide wildfire risk map, available through the Oregon Explorer at https://tools.oregonexplorer.info/OE_HtmlViewer/index.html?viewer=wildfire, is a tool to help people plan and make decisions about how to understand and lessen wildfire risk for their property and community.

The searchable map shows the wildfire risk of properties across the state. Anyone can plug in an address and see where the property falls on a risk spectrum. The map is a collabroation that involved the state's department of forestry, the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University as part of Senate Bill 762. That bill, passed during the 2021 legislative session, ordered state agencies to undertake a slate of proactive measures to prevent and respond to the growing threat of wildfires.

Representatives from Oregon State University who produced the map based on rules adopted by the Board of Forestry will attend the sessions.

The first set of meetings is in southwest Oregon. Two sessions have been scheduled, one in Medford and one in Grants Pass. Both meetings are from 7 to 8 p.m.

The Grants Pass meeting will be Tuesday, July 26, in the Anne G. Basker Auditorium, 500 N.W. Sixth St.

The Medford meeting will be Wednesday, July 27, at the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

About 120,000 of the state's nearly 2 million tax lots are in what's called the wildland-urban interface — an area where wild vegetation transitions into areas with more human activity — and in high or extreme risk zones.

About 80,000 of those lots likely will be subject to new state building and vegetation management standards, according to a July 7 story in the Mail Tribune. Much of the deep red areas of the map where there are extreme wildfire risks are in Southern, Central and Eastern Oregon.

Property owners in the high- and extreme-risk classes were expected to receive written notice from ODF this week indicating the property's risk class and whether it's in the wildland-urban interface. The notice will inform them if they may be subject to future defensible space or building code requirements and how to find information on those requirements. It will also provide information on the process to appeal a property's risk classification.

For properties in the wildland-urban interface and with a risk classification of high or extreme, Senate Bill 762 requires actions to help mitigate the risk of wildfire through adoption of defensible space and home hardening building codes.

Oregon State Fire Marshal is passing defensible space code requirements through a public process. Code adoption of defensible space requirements will occur in December, after the map validation and appeals period is closed. Those requirements won't apply until later.

More information is available on OSFM's website, www.oregon.gov/osp/programs/sfm/Pages/default.aspx.

The state Building Codes Division will adopt home hardening building codes through a public process. Building codes will be adopted Oct. 1 and will be effective April 1, 2023. See BCD's website (www.oregon.gov/bcd/Pages/index.aspx) for more information.