The OVBC is a panel of Oregonians who regularly conducts statewide surveys that focus on topics such as transportation, health care, and politics. The key findings in its survey, which was conducted online from Nov. 10-19, reveal people’s thoughts on wildfire prevention, prescribed burns where forest fires start and more.
According to the center’s survey, most people are willing to help prevent wildfire risks on their own time. At least half of Oregonians would back pre-planned power outages, and eight in 10 are okay with campgrounds and highways being closed.
One person who completed the survey commented, “The effects are so devastating and over such a long period, that extreme prevention measures are warranted. I was part of an area that was set to be subject to a planned power outage. I was not happy about it, but I understood the necessity of it.”
Another question on the survey asked respondents if Oregonians should be allowed to build homes in areas that pose high and extreme wildfire risks. Fifty-five percent of respondents answered “definitely no” or “lean no,” while about one-third of respondents felt the opposite way.
“I believe we should respect the right of private property owners to build on their land,” one surveyee said. “ However, Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon is an excellent example of a property that never should’ve been built because taxpayers spend enormous sums of money protecting that resort from fire. That is not right.”
Respondents also weighed in on whether they would support prescribed burns, or planned fires, which the U.S. Forest Service says can strengthen ecosystems that rely on fires.
About 72% of people either somewhat supported or strongly supported the idea of managed forest fires. OVBC pointed out that support for prescribed burns was higher among higher age groups, and that younger Oregonians are more likely to require further information.
The survey tests people’s knowledge of wildfires as well. When asked if forest fires usually start on public or private land, one in three respondents said they weren’t sure. The half who did know, or perhaps guessed, said the answer was public land.
Furthermore, 51% of respondents answered that it was “likely true” that the overall economic cost of wildfire — that includes tree loss, negative effects on tourism, health issues, etc. — is 10 times the cost of firefighting.
More than 1,500 Oregon residents over the age of 18 weighed in on the 15-minute survey. OVBCS said that to ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set and data were weighted by the area of the state, gender, age, and education.