How to prepare for wildfire season in Central Oregon
Wildfires are a way of life in the Western United States, but it could save lives to be prepared for wildfire season in Central Oregon. We’ve got tips here from local fire experts on how to prepare for and prevent destructive wildfires in our community.
May was National Wildfire Awareness Month here in Central Oregon which means that despite our wet spring, we need to prepare for the possibility of hot and smokey months ahead of us. The winter experienced last season will not be doing the land any favors this summer, so it is up to fire officials and the general public to prepare the area for the approaching wildfire season. “Our snow water equivalent right now is about 60% of normal in the Central Oregon area,” Jaimie Olle, Deschutes National Forest public affairs specialist told Central Oregon Daily “So we do anticipate an earlier start to fire season than we might normally see as some of those fuels do start to dry out.” With that in mind, the fire season prep we do now is more important than ever.
Be prepared for wildfire before it strikes by following Ready, Set, Go!
Fire is, and always has been, a natural part of beautiful Central Oregon but it can be dangerous. Wildfires are fueled by a build-up of dry vegetation and driven by the hot, dry winds that our summers bring. The Ready, Set, Go initiative was started by CAL FIRE and outlines exactly what you can do to stay safe throughout wildfire season. Get Ready Create and maintain defensible space and harden your home against flying embers.
- Remove vegetation and debris from your roof, vents, windows, deck, and gutters.
- Inspect the home for dry rot, gaps, or cracks. Caulk gaps greater than 1/8-inch.
- Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of four inches.
- Ensure all combustible materials are located at least 30 feet away from your home.
- Use or install fire ignition-resistant materials around your home.
Get Set Before wildfire strikes, it is important that you Get Set: Prepare yourself and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate.
- Step One: Create a Wildfire Action Plan that includes evacuation planning for your home, family, and pets.
- Step Two: Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for each person in your household.
- Step Three: Build a Family Communication Plan that includes important evacuation and contact information.
Go! Evacuate early for safety. Take the evacuation steps necessary to give your family and home the best chance of surviving a wildfire.
- Review your Evacuation Plan Checklist.
- Ensure your Emergency Supply Kit/Evacuation Bag is in your vehicle.
- Cover-up to protect against heat and flying embers.
- Locate your pets and take them with you.
Central Oregon Air Quality 101
Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gasses and fine particles from burning trees and other plant material. The gasses and fine particles can be dangerous if inhaled. Smoke can irritate your eyes and your respiratory system. Limit your exposure to the smoke:
- Stay indoors whenever possible with the doors and windows closed.
- Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as smoke from tobacco, wood-burning stoves, and burning candles.
- Use high-efficiency (HEPA) air-cleaning filters, if available.
- Avoid vacuuming, which can stir up dust.
- When driving in a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.
- Drink plenty of water to help reduce symptoms of scratchy throat and coughing.
Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing health conditions and those who are particularly sensitive to air pollution. Sensitive groups include:
- Persons with asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases
- Persons with cardiovascular disease
- Persons ≥ 65 years of age
- Infants and children
- Pregnant woman
- Smokers, especially those who have smoked for several years
For wildfire and prescribed fire information in Central Oregon, visit centraloregonfire.org or follow @CentralORFire on Twitter. Residents can also text “COFIRE” to 888-777 to receive text alert updates on wildfires and prescribed fires happening in Deschutes County. To check the air quality of the area, head to Oregon’s DEQ Air Quality Index