In Jackson County, fire has always played a prominent role in the environment. Long before towns and subdivisions were established across the landscape, fires were a natural result of the frequent summer thunderstorms that traveled across the region. Fire is an essential part of Oregon’s ecosystem, but it is also a serious threat to life and property particularly in the state’s growing rural communities.
In the forested mountains of Jackson County, where the hills are timbered and can be steep, there is a high susceptibility to wildfires. In recent years, lower than normal levels of precipitation have contributed to the wildfire risk as vegetation dries out. Forested areas throughout Jackson County are becoming increasingly populated, and wildfires pose a risk to people and their property. Choices in landscaping, site location, and building materials can elevate the risk of fire.
Most people assume that when a wildfire starts, it will be quickly controlled and extinguished, and this is true about 97% of the time. Firefighters have the ability, equipment and technology to effectively suppress most wildfires. But about 3% of the time, wildfires burn so intensely that there is little firefighters can do. Extreme weather, limited access, and dry, overgrown forests can make fire suppression difficult. Additionally, fires in multiple locations can easily strain available local fire protection resources.
Several physical factors affect the amount of damage resulting from wildfires, and the ability of firefighters to suppress a fire. These include: topography, weather, fuel loading (the amount of burnable material in a given area), vehicle access, fire breaks, proximity of water sources, distance from fire stations, and available firefighting personnel and equipment.
Wildfires can put dozens (even hundreds) of homes at risk simultaneously. Firefighters may not have the resources to protect each home. As residents of Jackson County, it’s our responsibility to take action to increase our homes’ chances of surviving a wildfire. We live in a fire-prone environment and fire agencies can’t solve the problem alone.
An All Hands, All Lands approach
Many agencies at all levels of government throughout the United States are working together with community groups, non-governmental organizations and citizens to help reduce the risk of wildfire to our communities. Below are links to help you learn more about the risk of wildfire to your neighborhood and what you can do to lessen that risk.
Before Wildfire Strikes! A Handbook for Homeowners and Communities in Southwest Oregon
Oregon Explorer Wildfire Risks
Living With Wildfire
Are You Prepared
Be Ember Aware
Oregon Department of Forestry Wildfire Information
Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon Fire Information
Oregon Smoke Information
InciWeb (Incident Information System)
Northwest Coordination Center (NWCC)
National Weather Service air quality and smoke maps
Oregon DEQ Air Quality Index map