SALEM, Ore. - The governors of eight Western states have signed a proclamation recognizing May as Wildfire Awareness Month -- and Oregon could face an unprecedented test at the peak of wildfire season in August -- an expected 1 million visitors for the solar eclipse, many to rural, wooded areas.
The chief executives of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Idaho, Utah, Montana and South Dakota encourage all citizens to "take steps to better prepare their home and communities for wildfires and work toward becoming a fire-adapted community." These states, in partnership with fire prevention agencies and organizations, are working together to increase awareness of wildfires with new public service announcements and opportunities for people to participate in community fire prevention projects.
At stake: lives, property, forests
When it comes to preventing wildfires, there's a lot at stake -- lives, personal property, and the many values provided by Oregon's forests and rangelands. During the 2016 wildfire season, Oregonians were responsible for starting wildfires that consumed over 159,000 acres.
This summer, a wide swath of Oregon will be in the path of a total solar eclipse on August 21-- the peak of Oregon's wildfire season. This event is expected to draw one million visitors to the state. The influx into fire-prone wildlands has the potential to result in more accidental fire starts while making it harder for fire personnel to get to fires.
Gov. Kate Brown's office, along with the Keep Oregon Green Association, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal, is seeking the public's assistance to prevent human-caused wildfires this summer. Gov. Brown has produced several public service announcements explaining how each and every Oregonian can take steps to keep our state safe.
"It is vital that all Oregonians work with their neighbors to plan and prepare for fire season and for the eclipse, especially those areas in or near the path of totality. Educating yourself now about how fires can get started will be key in reducing wildfire starts," said Kristin Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association.
Wildfires can start at home
Wildfires in the wildland-urban interface often are started by human activity, such as debris burning or lawn mowing, and then spread to the forest. Once underway, a fire follows the fuel, whether it is trees or houses.
"Simple prevention strategies can make your home, family and community much safer," Babbs said. "Spring is the perfect time to remove dead, flammable vegetation and limb up trees around the yard."
To get an early start on Wildfire Awareness Month, join your neighbors in reducing your community's wildfire risk by taking part in National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday, May 6. The National Fire Protection Association has teamed up with State Farm Insurance to encourage residents to commit a couple of hours, or the entire day, to raising wildfire awareness and working on projects that can protect homes and entire communities from the threat of fire.
Coming soon: More Wildfire Awareness Month tips
During May, Keep Oregon Green will promote wildfire prevention topics via traditional and social media each week to help homeowners and tourists learn how to ensure their outdoor activities do not spark the next wildfire. For more information, visit these websites: Keep Oregon Green, www.keeporegongreen.org; Oregon Dept. of Forestry, www.oregon.gov/odf; Office of the State Fire Marshal, www.oregon.gov/OSP/SFM/pages/index.aspx
Follow Oregon wildfire news and prevention updates on social media: Twitter @keeporegongreen, @ORDeptForestry and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/keeporegongreen; https://www.facebook.com/odfprevention/?fref=ts