SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Forestry has introduced a new online tool this month that will help community planners and the public learn about wildfire risk across the state. The web-based Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer was developed in partnership with the Institute for Natural Resources, Oregon State University Libraries and Press, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service. The tool will deliver the most current wildfire risk information for Oregon.
The development team worked with statewide fire managers, agency representatives and private and public stakeholders to create the tool. The tool will deliver the 2017 Pacific Northwest Quantitative Wildfire Risk Assessment developed by the U.S. Forest Service and Pyrologix, LLC. It can be found on the Oregon Explorer website (http://oregonexplorer.info/wildfire). Oregon Explorer has been used for a wide variety of natural resource-themed management and planning applications in Oregon. This tool represents the wildfire theme.
The site allows the user to view, query, and download data, generate maps and reports specific to their area, and access information to interpret the data for planning. It also provides a platform for displaying other relevant data and resources.
The tool is important because wildfires in Oregon are widespread and increasingly destructive. Last year, more than 2,000 wildfires were reported in Oregon. Those fires burned over 700,000 acres, an area more than twice the size of Multnomah County. Thousands of Oregonians were under evacuation orders and hundreds of homes and other property were threatened.
According to Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Data and Geospatial Analyst, Teresa Alcock, “Using the Explorer, homeowners can see where and how likely wildfires are to occur in their area. This is based on historical wildfire data, local vegetation, and weather. Summary reports provide contact information for the nearest Oregon Department of Forestry office. There, people can get guidance about ways to reduce the risk to their home, such as cutting back encroaching shrubs and trees and clearing debris from gutters, roofs and decks.”
Alcock also said the information will aid community wildfire planning and mitigation efforts. “Communities can learn about their local fire history and prioritize work toward becoming more fired-adapted and resilient. In order to plan effectively, communities need science-based, comprehensive wildfire risk data in a form that is directly applicable and understandable.”
A statewide steering committee, stakeholders, and beta testers have been working to develop and refine the tool. Rick Stratton, U.S. Forest Service Fire Analyst and Manager of the Pacific Northwest Quantitative Wildfire Risk Assessment said, “The risk assessment has three major goals: map and assess wildfire risk on all lands in Oregon and Washington, use an interagency approach to foster relationships, and produce a product that would be immediately used by the wildland fire managers, other federal and state programs, private industry and the public. Oregon Explorer will deliver the risk assessment to a variety of these people and programs.”
The team is helping local Community Wildfire Protection Plan updates with pilot projects throughout the state. They will also provide training workshops and materials for agency staff, community partners and emergency management professionals.