Clackamas County homeowners prepare for 2021 fire season


Clackamas County Fire District can provide a wildfire assessment at homes

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — With memories of the historic 2020 wildfires fresh in everyone’s mind, people are trying to get prepared for the upcoming fire season.

In Clackamas County, fire officials received multiple requests to do a wildfire assessment at residents’ homes, providing tips to homeowners on what they can do to prepare a defensible space.

There has been more of an interest in wildfire assessments after fires like the Dowty Fire swept through last fall.

“We could see the smoke plumes from the Dowty Fire and it got scary,” homeowner Terri Schmeling said. “Lots of smoke came through here. We just kept in tune with where it’s at and ready to go if we had to go.”

“With the wildfires that happened in the fall 2020, and then this year we are starting out with less than normal rainfall and potentially in a drought situation,” said Kari Shanklin, the deputy fire marshal with Clackamas Fire District 1, “so as things dry out and heat up it’s so important for homeowners to do what they can do to keep that defensible space.”

She said a good example of a defensible space is 30 feet out from the home, with no dead plants and trees and shrubs spaced and trimmed.

The goal is to make sure there is less fuel for the wildfire to burn. Homeowners can also eliminate what’s called ladder fuels — that is, fuels that allow fire to climb up trees.

“It’s important when a wildfire happens, it happens so quickly and often the threat is imminent,” she said. “So by doing what we can do now early in the spring to keep it much more defensible further down the road is very important.”

Hardening the home is another prevention concept, she said.

“Embers from a wildfire, they can travel up to a mile so we want to make sure the roofs are kept clear of needles or debris such as tree limbs, the gutters are kept clean and we also want to make sure vent openings are maybe covered and the space underneath the deck doesn’t have a lot of combustibles stored there.”

Schmeling said going through the 2020 wildfires helped them to know “what we should do. So during this last ice storm with all the tree limbs down, my husband and I worked really hard to get the limbs and trees cleared up and keep defensible space between the home.”

There are also grants available through the Clackamas Emergency Services for people to rent a chipper or get rid of yard debris.

“The Clackamas Emergency Services Foundation is providing 10 grants to homeowners to rent a chipper,” Shanklin said. “It’s a great alternative to burning yard debris. Or the grant can be used for fuels mitigation or getting rid of that yard debris.”

Check with your local fire district to see what resources are available for a wildfire assessment.

“I am grateful for Clackamas County Fire District,” Schmeling said. “They work super hard.”

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