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Michael J. Sykes warns of wildfire risk this summer and offers tips for keeping your home, and the environment, safe.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Michael J. SykesOnce again, wildfires are ravaging the West Coast. To date, there have been nearly 1,000 fires in Oregon this year, according to the Department of Forestry. The Bootleg Fire, burning an area half the size of Rhode Island in Southern Oregon, is one of the largest in our state's history.

With the drought and high temperatures we're experiencing, there's an increased likelihood for more fires as summer wears on.

It is imperative that we do all we can to prevent these fires from starting — both on a large scale and at an individual level.

At Columbia River PUD, we are continuing our efforts to harden our system against the threat of wildfire. We have installed additional re-closers, which are pieces of equipment that very quickly de-energize wires without causing sparks. We are aggressively managing vegetation around our electric system. We continue to move overhead power lines underground. These steps all help reduce the risk of our equipment causing a fire.

There are steps you can take at home to keep you and your family safe. Here are a few ideas:

• Create a 30-foot non-combustible buffer around your home.

• Stack firewood away from your home.

• Dispose of yard debris safely. This may include using alternatives to burning, like composting or chipping.

• Trim branches along your driveway and around your home.

• Contact us to trim branches near power lines. You can request tree trimming services online at crpud.net/trees or by calling us at 503-397-1844.

• Use non-combustible roofing materials.

• Clean gutters before fire season and keep them free of debris.

• Keep your yard well-watered and mowed short.

It's also important to keep up to date on local burn restrictions. If you do choose to have a recreational fire in an established fire pit, please do so safely and be sure it's completely out before leaving it unattended.

Most fires that occur in our state are the result of human activity. By exercising a little more caution, we can help do our part to avoid these disastrous fires that are becoming more and more common.

While we are doing everything we can to prevent wildfires from starting, it's also important that you have a plan in place in the event a fire breaks out in our area.

Pay attention to local emergency alerts and evacuation notices. If authorities issue an evacuation notice, you may have limited time to gather your family and important belongings. Know which specific items you will take with you if you are ordered to evacuate and have a plan in place for quickly loading them into your vehicle.

By working together, we can do our part to help keep our community safe this wildfire season.

Michael J. Sykes is general manager of the Columbia River People's Utility District.


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