PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Oregon Department of Forestry announced Thursday that it will spend a year revising its wildfire risk map and listening to public feedback before the final map is implemented.
The original wildfire risk map was originally published on June 30, but was withdrawn just over a month later after thousands of Oregonians shared feedback.
The color-coordinated wildland-urban interface and statewide wildfire risk map served as a visual representation of what the wildfire risk is for all of Oregon’s 1.8 million tax lots. However, many residents throughout the state challenged the map and the way it classified properties.
Many also feared that living in a high- or extreme-risk area could drive up the cost of homeowners’ insurance.
On Aug. 4, State Forester Cal Mukumoto made the announcement that the map would be removed and revised.
On Friday, the Oregon Department of Forestry released a timeline explaining when the public can expect a new version of the map.
ODF said from October 2022 through February 2023, it will conduct public and stakeholder engagement, outreach and education. This includes informing the public about wildfire science, risk and mitigation. Experts plan to focus on the most vulnerable areas and find opportunities to invest in wildfire prevention.
It will also complete building codes and defensible space standards for communities most at risk of wildfire.
Once it’s received community feedback, ODF will roll out the draft of the new wildfire risk map and will share it with the public.
From March through September, ODF will work with Oregon State University’s College of Forestry and local governments to conduct more public outreach to review the draft map and the building codes and defensible space standards.
Together, they’ll make any necessary revisions based on the feedback and in October through December 2023, the final wildfire risk map will be shared with the public for implementation.
“The revised plan and timeline allow us to prioritize engagement, collaboration and communication,” said Doug Grafe, the wildfire programs director with the Governor’s Office. “We are committed to ensuring people understand what they can do to increase the likelihood their homes and properties will survive wildfires. The wildfire risk map is one of several tools we will use to inform this work.”
Mukumoto said a big part of ODF’s work over the next year is focused on engaging with, listening to and informing the public about wildfire risk.
“This engagement will involve visiting communities across the state, talking with people, addressing concerns and answering questions. Ultimately, all of the agencies involved in this effort want to make sure Oregonians in the most at-risk communities know what they can do to better protect themselves, their families and friends, and their homes from wildfire.”
The revised plan will be implemented in collaboration with OSU’s College of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal and the Department of Consumer and Business Services.
The wildfire risk map was a result of Senate Bill 762, which passed in 2021. The bill allocated more than $220 million for wildfire preparedness throughout the state.
The purpose of the map was to provide science-based information to Oregonians about the factors near them that drive wildfire exposure, including weather, climate, vegetation and topography.
In the original map, 8% of tax lots in Oregon were considered to be in the wildland-urban interface and in high- or extreme-risk wildfire areas.
The established wildland-urban interface rules require property owners in high- and extreme-risk areas to create defensible space or meet building code requirements on their property.
The DCBS Division of Financial Regulation confirmed in August that no Oregon insurance company used the original map to set rates or as part of a decision to offer or renew insurance coverage. No Oregon insurance companies planned to use it for those purposes in the future.
ODF said it is still in the process of planning details for community meetings and will announce the details when they have them.