Wildfire Risk Prevention

In 2021, we have already seen record-breaking heat and drought conditions throughout the state. These conditions prime us for an early wildfire season.

If you live next to nature, here are a few tips to help prevent fires from starting near or spreading to your home:

  • Fire follows the fuel. Create a defensible space around your home that is free of flammable debris.
  • Remove dead or dying plants, branches, leaves and pine needles from your roof and rain gutters, deck and yard.
  • Remove flammable plants and replace with fire-resistant species - plants that are loosely branched, have watery sap and supple leaves. For a list of fire resistant plants, ask your local nursery or check out OSU Extension Service's Fire Resistant Plants Guide and Fire-Resistant Native Plants Of Western Multnomah County.
  • Avoid stacking firewood up against the house.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Keep grass short (less than four inches) and slightly green to keep fire on the ground.
  • Keep barbecues away from the house, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches - this includes propane, charcoal and pellet systems. Keep your grill clean and free of greases and never leave your barbecue unattended. 
  • Remember, open burning (backyard burning) is prohibited in Lake Oswego year-round.

 

Be Wildfire Ready

To prepare your home against the threat of wildland fires, follow these three critical steps:

Ready - Be Ready. Prepare for the fire threat by creating defensible space around your home, assembling emergency supplies, and planning evacuation routes.

Set - Situational awareness. As a fire approaches, stay alert and know how to receive the latest news and information on the fire from local media, your local fire department and public safety. Pack your emergency items and prepare to evacuate if necessary.

Lake Oswego uses the ClackCo Public Alerts emergency notification system to distribute emergency messages via telephone, text or email. All residents who are served by Lake Oswego Fire Department (including those in Multnomah and Washington Counties) are urged to enroll in this system.  
Sign Up for Public Alerts - Emergency Notifications

Go! - Act early. By leaving early, you have the best chance of surviving a wildland fire. You also support firefighting efforts by keeping the area and roads clear of congestion, which allows firefighters to best maneuver resources to combat the fire.

Watch Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) Ready, Set, Go video:

 

Home Assessments

The Lake Oswego Fire Department is offering home assessments for homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). Assessments focus on the home ignition zone and provide recommendations on ways to eliminate the fire’s potential relationship with the house. 

Sign up for a WUI Assessment

For questions regarding the program or need assistance with filling out an application, please contact the Lake Oswego Fire Department at 503-635-0275.

 

Defensible Space and Fuel Reduction

Defensible space is the space between a structure and the wildland (natural) area that creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildland fire to a structure. It protects the home from igniting due to direct flame or radiant heat.

When talking about defensible space, it’s helpful to refer to fuel reduction zones. Think of these as concentric circles around your house.

Zone 1: The Noncombustible Zone (extends 0 to 5 feet out) 

  • Remove all plants and vegetation, especially those touching your home.
  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to block embers.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Zone 2: The Clean and Green Zone (extends to 30 feet out) 

  • Remove dead plants, grasses or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters.
  • Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees.
  • Remove branches that hang over your roof and keep dead branches 10 feet away from your chimney.
  • Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture, wood piles, swing sets, etc.

Zone 3: The Reduced Fuel Zone (extends 100 feet out or to property line) 

  • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees. (See diagram below)
  • Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees. (See diagram below)
  • Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.
  • Remove dead plant and tree material.
  • Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.
  • Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
  • Trees 30 to 60 feet from the home should have at least 12 feet between canopy tops.
  • Trees 60 to 100 feet from the home should have at least 6 feet between the canopy tops.   

 

Watch NRPA video:

 

Seasonal Tasks

Winter Tasks

Winter is often the best time to thin, prune, trim back vegetation, and dispose of woody material and vegetation. Below are some important winter maintenance tasks for your fuel reduction zones. 

  • Thin out overly dense patches of trees and shrubs, and retain larger, healthier trees. Remove all dead or dying trees and some of the less vigorous or suppressed trees. Thinning increases separation between tree crowns which helps to reduce tree-to-tree spread of fire. Healthy, well-spaced trees are also more fire-resistant and less susceptible to insects and disease. 
  • Remove flammable brush and weeds from your home’s defensible space. Understory brush and weeds can act as ladder fuels—vegetation that allows fire to climb from the ground up into the tree canopy. Remove or prune ladder fuels in winter to early spring. 
  • Prune limbs of mature trees up at least 10 feet above the ground. Smaller trees can also be pruned, but remove only a third of the live branches at any one time. 
    • As the tree gets older and taller, it can be pruned again, raising its crown. Fall and winter are the best times to prune conifer trees; hardwoods are best pruned in spring. Be careful not to damage the branch collar. 
  • A properly maintained driveway is essential for providing a safe access and escape route for your home. If firefighters can’t see down your driveway, they will not enter. 
    • Check your driveway each winter for encroaching brush or overhanging tree limbs. Strive for at least 13.5 feet of vertical clearance and trim brush back 10 feet or more from the edge of the driveway. Make sure your address signs can be seen so emergency responders can find you!

Spring/Early Summer Tasks

While winter is often the best time to complete “heavy duty” maintenance tasks, there is a lot you can do in spring prior to fire season, and even during fire season. 

  • Clear all flammable debris from the roof, gutters, and around your home. Tree litter (needles, leaves) on or around your home is highly flammable and easily ignited by airborne embers. Mow or weed-whack grass around barns and other outbuildings. 
    • Check your roof and gutters at least twice annually, fall and spring; remove any flammable debris (nearby madrone trees, which lose their leaves in early summer, necessitate removal during summer too). Rake leaves and needles away from your home, decks, and outbuildings. Also, screen the underside of your deck. 
  • During summer, never store flammable materials near your home. Flammable items such as firewood and even patio furniture are easily ignited by airborne burning embers. Move all firewood piles at least 30 feet away from all structures in the spring. During fire season, things like gas grills and patio furniture cushions are especially susceptible to embers and should be stored indoors when not in use. 
  • Remove highly flammable plants such as juniper and replace with attractive, fire-resistant plants. There are a variety of ground covers, flowers, and even trees and shrubs to choose from. Both native species and ornamentals can be used. 
    • Keep grass and weeds mowed to less than 4 inches in height. Dry grass and weeds are very hot, flashy fuels that ignite easily and spread quickly. Flames can be three times.  Mow or weed-whack dry grass and weeds that ignite easily. 
    • Avoid grass fires by mowing before fire season when grasses are still green. Mowing in the spring will also reduce the chance of weeds maturing and spreading viable seed. During fire season, restrict mowing to early morning hours. However, mowing may be prohibited entirely under extreme conditions; check with your local fire district for current restrictions.

For more detailed seasonal tasks and checklists, check out OSU Extension Service's Keeping Your Home and Property Safe from Wildfire.

Watch National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) video:

 

Keep address signs visible

To help first responders identify your house quickly, it is important that house numbers be clearly visible from the street.Take a few minutes and make sure your home can be easily found in case of an emergency. House numbers should be:

  • In plain, block numerals on a contrasting background.
  • At least six inches high.
  • Unobstructed and large enough to be seen from the road.
  • Facing the street named in your address.
  • On the door, the door frame, the main entrance or displayed at your driveway entrance if your house is not visible from the road.

 

 

 

 

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