Lane County fire officials warn of potential wildfire risks

Some of the areas that are at the highest risk are the wildland-urban interface areas, where people and homes meet wildlife.

Posted: Aug 6, 2018 10:21 AM
Updated: Aug 6, 2018 11:48 AM

EUGENE, Ore. -- With a large part of Oregon being extremely dry, fire officials said the risk of a wildfire is high, and they want to make sure people protect their homes in case of an emergency.

Wildfires have been raging across California and Southern Oregon for weeks. In many cases, communities have been devastated. Much of the devastation has happened because many homes are built in heavily-wooded areas.

Fire officials said something like that could happen in western Oregon.

"My concern is that people aren't prepared for this,” said Lt. Tressa Miller from Lane Fire Authority.

Some of the areas that are at the highest risk are the wildland-urban interface areas where people and homes meet wildlife. Many of these areas around the edges of Eugene and Springfield have high fire hazards.

"People wonder about seeing wildlife in their yard. It's beautiful when you have it, but it also means you have the potential for a wildfire to be right up against the back of your property,” Miller said. “California is no stranger to that, and we are beginning to see that in Oregon as we branch out and build newer homes and more homes in our state."

Fire officials said fighting fires in these areas can be difficult. Often the roads are narrow, which can make it harder for fire rigs to get through. There is a high fuel load, which means there’s a lot of flammable material in the area. Also, many of the homes are built on hills. Since they're at an angle, it can be more difficult for crews to fight the flames.

However, there are ways people can protect their homes.

Fire experts said you should create a defensible space around your home to make sure things that burn aren’t right next to it.

"Having a defensible space around the home keeps it safer for the homeowner and makes it easier for us to do our job and keeps it safer for us as well,” said Merrill Harrison, deputy fire marshal with Eugene Springfield Fire.

He said people should also make sure the trees above the roof are limbed, and the property is accessible.

Additionally, he said it is important to plan ahead and make sure there is an evacuation plan in place -- just in case.

"It absolutely could happen here and that's why we want people to take the measures that they can themselves ahead of time,” Miller said.

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