Despite record-setting April rains, Oregonians need to be prepared for a wildfire season that could begin as early as May, Clackamas County Fire Defense Board Chair and Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis said during a press conference.
"Yes, we have had record-breaking rain…" he said. "For Clackamas, this may keep us under a normal fire season. This can change with sustained high winds, low humidity and high temperatures for a sustained period of time."
Davis said that while there is no official start date to wildfire season, it typically begins when fuels dry out and temperatures heat up through May and June. Fire season is usually declared in July.
"Weather during the fire season is the most important element for us to monitor, and not current conditions of the above-normal precipitation in April," he said, noting that historic 2020 wildfires occurred during what started out as a normal fire season.
Ahead of the fire season, Clackamas County officials said they're working within the community to create awareness and preparedness and to combat fears revolving around wildfires.
Clackamas Fire Chief Nick Browne noted that that across the county, fire departments are bolstering firefighting apparatuses and crews ahead of what could potentially be a busy season.
"Funding remains a constant concern as we look to be best prepared year-round by having enough highly trained and equipped personnel to combat these incidents that are happening more frequently in our area," he said.
Folks can begin to prepare by having a plan in place in case of a wildfire emergency. Creating and maintaining a defensible space of at least 30 feet around homes and buildings by clearing dead brush and grass can slow the spread of wildfires on your property, Browne said.
Interim Director of Clackamas County Emergency Management Daniel Nibouar outlined ways the community can prepare in case of evacuation. He encouraged people to sign up for public alerts and know the difference between get ready, get set and go evacuation orders.
Finally, Clackamas County Sheriff Captain Brad O'Neil discussed other safety and security precautions in the event of evacuation. He suggested that folks either have a fire safe for important items or security system with cameras in place around your property, but also noted that officers patrol evacuated areas for suspicious activity.
May is wildfire awareness month. Throughout the month, Clackamas County will host wildfire preparedness workshops in communities throughout the area. For a full list of sessions and to sign up, visit Clackamas.us/wildfires .
What about fireworks?
As Independence Day quickly approaches, Davis said the county is currently not planning to ban fireworks. County commissioners in April declined to enact a ban for now and have said they would continue to monitor conditions ahead of July 4. Last year, fireworks were banned just days before the holiday
Davis said a ban would be reconsidered if there were sustained dry, hot weather for seven to 10 days, which allows brush and grasses to dry out an ignite easily if sparked.
He recommended folks view professional firework shows to enjoy the holiday, or only set off "safe and sane" fireworks sold at firework stands. Fireworks should be lit on concrete and 25-50 feet away from structures or vegetation, and with water nearby.
He added that in case of level one evacuations, people should keep their cars fully fueled and ready to go. He said it is also a good idea to keep a USB thumb drive with important personal documents in your "go bag," in case of evacuation. More tips on how to prepare for wildfires will be available online and during wildfire community preparedness sessions.
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