ESTACADA, Ore. (KOIN) — The Labor Day wildfires left 11 Oregonians dead and burned more than 1 million acres. Many people are still recovering several months later.
Cleanup in fire-ravaged areas is progressing and construction is ramping up as the weather improves. Fire officials want residents to start preparing now so they have a plan in place ahead of this year’s fire season.
Experts held a town hall on Thursday in Estacada near where the Riverside Fire burned more than 138,000 acres in September. The focus of the meeting was to help residents create a family emergency preparedness plan and emergency evacuation kit.
“We need to restore and maintain our forests and rangelands and reduce fuels so that wildfire severity is minimized,” said OSU Program Fire Manager Carrie Berger. “But we also need to work together to make meaningful actions to prevent those destructive wildfires we saw last summer.”
During the town hall, officials talked about creating a defensible space around a home by removing dry leaves, dead brush and debris. They also highlighted the importance of building a home inventory by taking photos of each room and making notes on each item.
“Keep your grass mowed to four inches or less, remove leaves, needle accumulation on your rook or gutters,” Berger advised, adding that creating a preparedness plan and emergency evacuation kit are steps that can and should be taken now.
Another step in wildfire preparedness is building a financial backpack. This means gathering important documents like passports and scanning them to store on flash drives.
May 1 is National Wildfire Awareness Day. Community and neighborhood cleanup projects are planned in various Oregon regions.
Meanwhile, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum cautioned Oregonians to be wary of wildfire-related scams.
“More than 40,000 Oregonians were forced to evacuate their homes without much warning. Many families had to seek shelter in hotels and motels — some hotels upped their prices significantly and they took advantage of this really bad situation,” Rosenblum said.
Rosenblum said her office launched multiple investigations into these price-gouging scams and reached settlements with four different hotels and motels. She said at least 100 Oregon families who were overcharged for their stays were reimbursed for the excessive cost.
Rosenblum said merchants and wholesalers that sell essential consumer goods or services are required by law to not offer those goods or services at “an unconscionable or excessive price.” She also cautioned people to watch out for cleanup and repair scams and remember that government services are always free.
“Be skeptical of promises of immediate cleanup and debris removal,” Rosenblum said. “Research contractors, do not trust any promises that are not in writing. Watch out for imposters — only scammers are going to say they are a government official demanding money from you.”
If you believe you have been charged an unconscionably excessive price for an essential consumer good or service, you can file a complaint online or by calling 503.378.8442.