City of West Linn begins fire mitigation planning
At a meeting with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R), staff from the City of West Linn, including City Manager Eileen Stein and Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worchester, took preliminary steps to forming a plan that will help protect West Linn's 250 acres of wooded areas and open spaces from fire.
According to TVF&R Public Affairs Officer Stefan Myers, Clackamas County assesses wildfire risk within the county, which the City can use while creating its plans.
A 2017 report from the county lists three areas in West Linn as "High priority communities at risk," Skyline Ridge, Wilderness and Camassia parks and the I-205 corridor.
The report states, "(I-205 corridor) has the highest occurrence of wildfire ignitions because the hillside is covered with light flashy fuels and is adjacent to Interstate 205. It is a south facing slope with the potential of rapid fire spread toward homes at the top of the slope. This area should be continuously considered for fire fuel reduction."
The report also states that typically there is at least one "fire ignition" a year in either Camassia or Wilderness Park, typically in late May or early June. Parks and Rec Director Ken Warner clarified that although fires were once frequent in the area, they have become significantly less so in frequent years, thanks partly to its declining popularity as a hangout spot for high schoolers.
The county considered a number of factors in ranking these priorities, including: heavy fuels on adjacent public lands, water availability, potential ignition sources from recreationists and transients, agricultural and backyard burning, access limitations (narrow driveways, lack of address signage, one way in/one way out) and community outreach programs promoting wildfire awareness.
The county report also lists Mary S. Young Park, Burnside Park and Maddax Woods, the Wilson Creek/ Rosemont natural area, the Pete's Mountain area, Hidden Springs and Robinwood Park as "medium priority communities at risk" and White Oak Savanna as "medium-low priority."
"The open space at Tannler Drive and Blankenship Road is fairly steep, has some trees and ground level fuels," the report says of White Oak Savanna.
Eventually, the City and TVF&R will work with other agencies like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a more comprehensive plan, according to Stein. The city manager said planners will consider a list of wild life species that may be in the White Oak Savanna provided by Savanna advocates Ed and Roberta Schwarz.
This summer, the Schwarzes raised concerns about how volunteer work to eliminate potential wildfire fuel could affect the wildlife of the park.
"In this case, these areas are City-owned. They're going to want to look at a more comprehensive land use plan," Myers said. "And that's why in this preliminary discussion we were really looking at who are the experts that can both balance fuel mitigation with wildlife and other considerations that have to be a part of that discussion as it's an important resource for the community."
TVF&R abides by recommendations from Firewise, a national program that teaches people how to protect their homes from wildfires, Myers explained.
"We want to make sure that those brush fires and some small vegetation fires don't get into becoming a structure fire," he said. "So, if people look at Firewise, they can learn a lot of great techniques about keeping fuel sources away from their home and making sure their home is less susceptible to fire risk."
Firewise recommends things like limiting the amount of flammable vegetation around the home, using fire-resistant building materials, trimming branches that overhang the home and making sure plants within 10 feet of the home don't contain oil, resins or waxes.
Barrington Heights and Savanna Oaks are listed in the Clackamas County report as actively participating in the Firewise program.
Myers noted how important these plans are for the community.
"We are committed to supporting these efforts throughout the areas we serve and look forward to continued discussions," he said. "We want to be a supportive partner. Community safety is really important to us and we want to support the city as they go down that road and evaluate what's the best plan moving forward."
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