MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Ore. -- As of July 10, fires in Oregon have scorched more than 124,000 acres. That's about four times more acres than during the same time last year (32,000 acres), and some Oregon residents aren't waiting for it to hit any closer to home.
Linda Christian, a resident of McKenzie Bridge, is one of several homeowners in western Oregon taking steps to protect her home from a wildfire. Christian was evacuated last year when the Horse Creek Complex Fires threatened her neighborhood. She said that summer opened her eyes to the dangers of fire.
"After that evacuation and how all the fire danger has gone up, how much longer fire season is, the reluctance has definitely gone away," Christian said.
Since then, Christian has been working with Oregon Department of Forestry to build defensible space around her home, clearing out the trees she once loved seeing in her yard.
"There used to a be whole bunch of trees in here,” Christian said. “Now they just look like fire danger. Even though at the time, I thought that aren't those cute, but no."
This open space will be critical for firefighters to protect her home in a safe manner.
Crews with the Willamette National Forest are working with other agencies to build fuel breaks to help protect towns in the foothills of the Cascades.
"If you get a fire, it's more of a low-laying understory burn versus an intense crown fire, which more than likely is just going nuke an area," said Jose Marcado, a fire management officer with the Willamette National Forest.
Fuel breaks in Oakridge are being built by clearing out dead brush and through controlled burns. Marcado says these will reduce the intensity of a potential wildfire, slowing it down so they can protect homes and businesses.
"We are not taking away the risk of fires,” Marcado said. “The risk of fires is always there. But what you're doing is you're helping a fire to not be as intense."
That constant risk of fires is why Christian has entered this fire season prepared for anything.
"Changes your attitude about what you need and what's important,” Christian said. “It was actually pretty scary."
In 2017 wildfires forced more than 7,000 Oregonians to evacuate, 10 families losing their homes as a result. A large percentage of those evacuations occurred in Lane County.
"We have had 20 fires in the last 20 years, and last year alone 7,000 people were evacuated from wildfires," said Marcus Kauffman, a public information officer with ODF Springfield.
This year wildfires have already burned down at least two homes in Oregon.
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