Government, Salem, wildfire

Gov. Brown declares May ‘wildfire awareness month’

A small brush fire burns near Balm Grove in 2017. Photo: Chas Hundley

SALEM – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joined the governors of nine other states in signing a proclamation declaring May 2019 wildfire awareness month.

The Department of Forestry said Oregonians were responsible for starting 1,330 wildfires during the 2018 wildfire season, mostly by activities such as debris burning and lawn mowing, and those blazes burned more than 329,000 acres.

“It’s incredibly important that all Oregonians work with their neighbors to plan and prepare for fire season now,” said Kristin Babbs, president of the Keep Oregon Green Association, a 75-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to educate the public about preventing wildfires. “Educating yourself about how fires can get started will be key in reducing accidental wildfire ignitions this summer. Simple and inexpensive prevention strategies can make your home, family, and community much safer.”

The Department of Forestry is encouraging all citizens to join with their neighbors in getting the word out about wildfire awareness month on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this Saturday, May 4.  

The National Fire Protection Association and State Farm Insurance teamed up to encourage residents to commit at least a couple of hours to raise awareness about wildfire prevention and working on projects that can protect homes and entire communities from the threat of fire.

All involved say simple ways citizens can observe Wildfire Community Preparedness Day include taking a walk through a nearby wood or forest to clear up any things left by careless people that might spark a fire, teaching children about the dangers of fire and the effects of carelessness, and volunteering time with the local forest service.  

Forest Grove District Forester Mike Cafferata issued a warning on May 1 about the region’s fire conditions. He said the weather will continue to be dry and warm, and that residents should be mindful when burning yard debris.

“Yesterday we responded to a fire in a freshly planted harvest unit,” Cafferata wrote via email. “I don’t have a final size yet but we estimate (it burned) 25 acres. Enjoy the weather, but be careful.”

On Wednesday, May 1, two small brush fires were ignited in Gales Creek after burn piles left their bounds in two unrelated incidents, according to Forest Grove Fire and Rescue.

Banks Fire District was dispatched to both, according to data from emergency tracking app Pulsepoint and a property owner at one of the fires.

To read statistics about wildfires in Oregon visit the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Statistics Database.  

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