It’s Too Early For It To Start, Or Is It? But It’s Never Too Early To Prepare.

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Brattain fire
Brattain Wildfire | Photo by bewsbreak. com

I really hadn’t planned on revisiting this topic for quite a while, in fact last year I first brought it up in July. It is that time of the year for outdoor activities, limited though they may be due to COVID-19 precautions. We can’t be complacent about the wildfire danger any more than we can be complacent about the spread of the Pandemic.

Brush Fire North Of Walterville | Photo by Angelina Dixson Through kval.com

We have already had our first brush fire in the area when a fire broke out Wednesday afternoon April 14th north of Walterville. Apparently a burn pile got out of control on Upper Camp Creek Road according to kval.com. McKenzie Fire and Rescue were summoned and contained the blaze. With the hotter than normal temperatures, the already dry conditions, and the breezy to windy conditions the conditions were perfect for producing wildfires. On Saturday April 17th at 2 pm a brush fire was reported near Gimpl Hill Road in Eugene firefighters had the fire under control in about 40 minutes. Had it not been for the quick reporting of the fires and the rapid firefighter response these fires could have become much more serious.

That’s why the following Red Flag Warning was issued: A RED FLAG WARNING IS IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM UNTIL 10 PM FRIDAY APRIL 16, 2021 FOR WIND AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY FOR THE NORTH OREGON COAST RANGE, THE EAST SLOPES OF THE CENTRAL OREGON COAST RANGE, THE WILLAMETTE VALLEY, THE NORTHERN OREGON CASCADE FOOTHILLS, THE CENTRAL OREGON CASCADE FOOTHILLS, THE WILLAMETTE NATIONAL FOREST, AND THE CENTRAL OREGON COAST. LRAPA issued a ban on outdoor burning for all of Lane county including the coastal area due to wildfire danger.

With conditions setting up for an early start to the wildfire season I thought it would be a good idea to go over how wildfire information is gathered and disseminated and the safety precautions we must take to help mitigate the threat of wildfires spreading through our neighborhoods.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) is the geographic coordination center for the Northwest Region which includes the states of Oregon and Washington. Located in Portland,OR, then NWCC serves as the focal point for interagency, coordination, logistics support, aviation support and predictive services for all state and federal agencies involved in wildfire management and suppression in the region. Cooperating agencies include the : Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.” (NWCC website)

Northwest Interagency (NWCC) Large Wildfire Map 04.19.21 | Image by NWCC

The NWCC Large Wildfire Map shows any large wildfires in the states of Washington and Oregon. As you can see on the above map, so far, there are no wildfires in Oregon or Washington.

What can you do to help prevent wildfires? The National Weather Service has the following guidelines to help us out.

Wildfire Safety
Wildfire Safety Tips | Image by weather.gov through Port Jeffers Village

We should also remember the COVID-19 precautions concerning wearing a face covering particularly when we can’t self-distance at least six feet away from others even when camping or picnicking outside. With the abundance of trees and foliage throughout Oregon it is advisable to take care of your own property to help prevent a wildfire from visiting your home. The hills surrounding the Eugene-Springfield area are vulnerable to wildfires which could spread through neighborhoods rapidly.

Defensible Space Diagram | Image by lavernefire.org

The authorities give specific information about what is called a “Defensible Space” around your property. It consists of clearing flammable materials away from your home. The zones are set up in such a way to better protect your home from burning embers of a nearby fire that could follow vegetation or other flammable materials straight to your house.

Fire Escape Plan
Home Fire Escape Plan Animation| Image by wa.gov.au

In addition to these measures everyone should have an evacuation plan in the event your house catches on fire. Practice how you would escape if different escape routes might be blocked. Also, you should have a place outside away from the house where all of your family members can meet to make sure everyone is safely out of the house. You should also be prepared for other events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods by having evacuation plans for each and a contact person outside of the area who you could call and notify other relatives that you are OK. Physically having drills will make it easier to know what to do in the emergency. Muscle memory can take over if you are in panic mode.

As the wildfire season continues I will use this column to let you know where the wildfires are and how they are being fought.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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