A new draft of the Oregon wildfire risk map that received public outcry earlier this year will be released next March, the Oregon Department of Forestry said Thursday.
The Oregon Explorer Wildfire Risk Map, mandated by Senate Bill 762 in 2021, was released on June 30. The Department of Forestry sent notices to property owners who were considered to be in the high or extreme risk classifications.
But the state pulled the map on August 4 after receiving feedback from some 2,000 Oregonians.
Sunriver resident Bill Worden told Central Oregon Daily News in August he’s done everything he can on his property to lower the wildfire risk to his house. But on the wildfire risk map, he was still at the same risk as other properties that had not taken precautionary measures.
“The problem that I have with it is they’ve done that by satellite imagery and potentially talking to other people, but they’ve not done a real boots-on-the-ground assessment,” said Worden.
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ODF said at the time it based the risk classifications on weather, climate, topography and vegetation.
The department now says it has revised its timeline for rolling out the map based on the feedback it received. The draft will go out on March 1 with the final version released late next year before it is officially implemented. There will be an appeals period before it takes effect.
Between now and then, the state is offering opportunities to engage with the public.
- October 2022 – February 2023: Public and stakeholder engagement, outreach and education. Includes wildfire science, risk and mitigation outreach and education, with focus on the most vulnerable areas; identifying opportunities for investments in wildfire prevention; completing building codes and defensible space standards for the most vulnerable communities; compilation and analysis of feedback received; and technical refinements.
- March 1, 2023: Public rollout of draft wildfire risk map. Draft map shared with the public.
- March 2023 – September 2023: Public outreach, engagement and education on draft wildfire risk map. Includes working with ODF, OSU College of Forestry, local governments, planning departments, Department of Land Conservation and Development, Oregon State Fire Marshal and the state Building Codes Division to review the draft map; public outreach, education and engagement on the draft map and related topics including building codes and defensible space standards; and making any necessary revisions based on feedback received on updated map.
- October 2023 – December 2023: Final wildfire risk map shared with the public for implementation. Includes sharing a final wildfire risk map with the public, initiating a 60-day appeals process and notifying those who are in the most high-risk areas about the steps needed to protect their homes and properties from catastrophic wildfires and how to comply with defensible space standards and building codes.
“Oregon State University’s College of Forestry has used, and will continue to use, the best science to contribute to statewide wildfire risk mapping,” Tom DeLuca, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry, said in a statement. “We support the importance of changing the timeline for the mapping component of SB 762. This added time provides an opportunity to better share information and conduct authentic community engagement by listening to Oregonians and community leaders across our state in the implementation of the new law. Even with the timeline change, we must all recognize that addressing fire risk in Oregon is a priority that will require all of us to work together.”