Prepping for Wildfires at Home and Business in Oregon: a Comprehensive Guide on What to Do

prepping for wildfires

When picturing Oregon, the images of a rainy Portland, and all the stories you hear of it, are probably popping up. Though the “9 months of rain” is regularly talked about, the overall wetter region of Oregon, where Portland sits, still isn’t even in the top 20 most rainfall cities

With that common narrative in mind, it can feel shocking to hear that two-thirds of the state are actually considered semi-arid

When put in that perspective, the very present concern for wildfires becomes much more understandable. Even more so, the awareness needed to know what prepping for wildfires can actually look like and how necessary it really is. 

Simply put, wildfires are a significant threat in Oregon due to its dry climate, extensive forests, and changing weather patterns. 

With another drought beginning in 2020, mixed with the over 30 million acres of forests, the forecast looking forward can merit a strong desire (and need) to begin prepping for wildfires.  

As these disasters can strike suddenly and with devastating consequences, it is crucial for residents and business owners to be prepared

In this guide, we will provide comprehensive steps to help you prepare your home and business for wildfires in Oregon. By implementing these measures, you can enhance safety, reduce property damage, and contribute to the overall community resilience.

Prepping for Wildfires: Understanding the Wildfire Risk

Though the facts above may illicit an itch to begin prepping for wildfires, there is a benefit in understanding what is at risk and where

Before diving into what prepping for wildfires looks like for you, it is essential to understand the wildfire risk in your area. 

There are a number of resources available to you. 

In our entry last year, Wildfire Risk: Awareness and Resources, we shared with you eye-opening and awareness-building facts about the threat that drives us to begin prepping for wildfires here in Oregon. 

We also provided the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer, a program designed to identify the wildland urban interface and wildfire risk at the property ownership level.

Along with this information, you can research historical wildfire incidents in your region, consult local authorities, and check fire hazard maps to determine the likelihood of wildfires in your vicinity. 

Understanding the risks will enable you to tailor what prepping for wildfires looks like for you more effectively.

Prepping for Wildfires: Create a Defensible Space

A key step in prepping for wildfires, creating a defensible space is crucial to protect your home and business from wildfires

This involves managing vegetation and creating a buffer zone that minimizes the chances of flames reaching your property. 

Follow these guidelines:

  • – Clear Vegetation: Remove dead plants, leaves, and dry debris from your property regularly.
  • – Trim Trees and Shrubs: Prune tree branches at least 10 feet from chimneys and structures. Trim shrubs to maintain a minimum 3-foot distance from your building.
  • – Maintain Lawns: Keep lawns well-watered and mowed to reduce fire fuel.
  • – Fire-Resistant Plants: Choose fire-resistant plants for landscaping around your property. The US Forest Service has developed a list for fire resistant plants suitable for our Oregon climates.
  • – Firebreaks: Establish firebreaks using gravel or non-combustible materials around your structures.

prepping for wildfires

Prepping for Wildfires: Building Construction and Materials

In all that might happen around us, our lives still continue and grow. It is important to consider how the expansion can help (or harm) your awareness around the need of prepping for wildfires. 

When constructing or renovating buildings, utilize fire-resistant materials to reduce the risk of ignition.

These include: 

  • – Roofs: Opt for Class A fire-rated roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, clay tiles, or metal.
  • – Exterior Walls: Use fire-resistant siding materials like stucco, brick, or cement fiberboard.
  • – Windows: Install tempered or dual-paned glass to enhance heat resistance.
  • – Vents: Install ember-resistant vents to prevent the entry of flying embers.

There are a number of guides available that can help you match your building projects and the needed prepping for wildfires. 

Prepping for Wildfires: Evacuation Plan

Though we may never want to use one, having a well-thought-out evacuation plan is critical for both homes and businesses in wildfire-prone areas.

Put simply, it is another necessary step in prepping for wildfires. 

OSHA, of the US Department of Labor, states, “Having an evacuation plan in place before a wildfire occurs can help avoid confusion and prevent injuries

Elements of your evacuation plan that are created in your process of prepping for wildfires can include:

  • – Establish Multiple Escape Routes: Identify at least two evacuation routes and practice them with all occupants regularly.
  • – Assemble Emergency Supplies: Create emergency kits with essentials such as food, water, first aid supplies, and important documents.
  • – Communication Plan: Designate a family or team member outside the area as the central point of contact to coordinate during emergencies.

It is ideal to incorporate the guidance from outside resources, as well as identifying any unique or special circumstances that pertain to you, your family, and/or your business

prepping for wildfires

Prepping for Wildfires: Fire-Safe Practices

Though one third of fires in Oregon are caused by lightning strikes, when looking beyond our own state border to the rest of the United States, 85% of wildfires are caused by some form of human activity. With this in mind, the prepping for wildfires you are doing can go beyond the moment of ignition. 

Just like the preparation in defensible spaces, and the selection of building materials, there are individual actions that can establish fire-wise habits to help keep you aware and safe from an accidental ignition. 

Adopt these fire-safe practices to minimize fire risks in and around your property:

  • – Outdoor Cooking and Open Flames: Use gas grills or electric stoves instead of charcoal grills. If you must have open flames, ensure a safe distance from flammable materials.
  • – Smoking: Avoid smoking outdoors, especially during dry and windy conditions.
  • – Equipment Use: Use power tools and machinery in the early morning or late evening when the humidity is higher and winds are calmer. 
  • – Vehicle Maintenance: Ensure your vehicle is well-maintained to prevent sparks that could ignite dry vegetation.

You can refer to the fire restriction guide that describes what tools, equipment, and activities are allowed at what times, and at what fire danger levels

Prepping for Wildfires: Fire Safety Training

As a part of your prepping for wildfires, you can educate yourself, your family, and your employees about wildfire safety. 

This includes:

  • – Community Resources: Participate in local workshops, seminars, and fire safety training offered by fire departments or emergency management agencies.
  • – Fire Extinguisher Training: Learn how to use a fire extinguisher effectively and keep one accessible in your home and business.
  • – Emergency Response Training: Encourage staff or family members to undergo first aid and CPR training.

Prepping for Wildfires: Business Continuity Planning

For businesses, continuity planning is vital to ensure minimal disruptions during and after a wildfire. 

Look at these options as actions you can take in prepping for wildfires:

  • – Backup Data and Documents: Regularly back up critical data and important documents in a secure location off-site or in the cloud.
  • – Insurance Coverage: Review your insurance policy to ensure adequate coverage for wildfire damage.
  • – Identify Temporary Locations: If possible, identify alternative locations to continue business operations temporarily.

Prepping for wildfires at home and business in Oregon requires proactive measures, vigilance, and a collective effort from the community. By creating defensible spaces, using fire-resistant building materials, and developing evacuation plans, you can significantly reduce the risk of property damage and protect lives. Moreover, engaging in fire safety training and adopting fire-safe practices will further contribute to a safer and more resilient Oregon.

Remember, preparedness is the key to effectively combat the threat of wildfires and ensure the well-being of everyone involved.