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Recommended steps that people can take to protect against the upcoming fire season.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Plumes of smoke rise from the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak Fire near Newberg in September 2020.The Office of State Fire Marshal wants to remind Oregonians that you are the greatest resource in protecting homes and neighborhoods. With some simple steps, you can protect your home and community from wildfire. Now is the time to prepare your home and your property for the 2021 fire season.

Remember to keep your defensible space defined, keep grass and weeds cut low and always be prepared to respond to wildfires. COURTESY PHOTO: OSP - Mariana Ruiz-Temple is the fire marshal for Oregon

With this in mind, the Office of State Fire Marshal urges you to take a look around your property in the "home ignition zone," where glowing embers can ignite spot fires and vulnerable areas like decks, patios and fences that can spread flames to your home. The most significant risk of structures catching fire during a wildland fire event is from the advancing ember shower that can reach your property long before an actual flame front.

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Good, defensible space not only can prevent ember ignition of your home, but it also can prevent the flames from reaching your home at all. You can reduce the vegetation within 30 feet of home and eliminate flammable plants from touching your home.

Wildfire safety starts with all of us and our property. Now is the time to take action to prepare our homes, families, and communities for wildfires by starting before there is smoke on the horizon.

To address the risk of wildfire, the Office of State Fire Marshal recommends the following steps that people can take to help protect themselves against the upcoming fire season:

• Clear roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.

• Ensure your roof is in good repair.

• Move any flammable material away from exterior walls, i.e., mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles.

• Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

• Give your home a noncombustible area where a fire in the landscape can't reach your home, strive for a 5-foot perimeter.

• Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of 4 inches.

• Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns. Prune trees up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground; shorter trees do not exceed one-third of the overall tree height.

With firefighters doing their best to tackle large wildfires, communities that focus on neighborhood-wide "firewise" ideals not only increase an individual home's survival but the whole neighborhood's.

A neighborhood-wide approach can increase the chances of homes surviving a wildfire. By taking a neighborhood approach to defensible space and community preparedness, you also are protecting firefighters. Ultimately, individuals taking the right steps on their property before fire season make firefighters safer and more effective.

Creating whole neighborhoods that are holistically preparing for wildfire is a large piece of fire-adapted communities. A fire-adapted community acknowledges and takes responsibility for its wildfire risk by taking actions to address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses and infrastructure, forests, parks and open spaces all Oregonians enjoy.

Mariana Ruiz-Temple serves as the Oregon fire marshal.

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