In the Event of a Wildfire

If you live in the country, wildfire can pose a significant threat to your home and property. As the climate changes, and areas of forested areas become drier, it is important to think about how best to prepare your family, your animals, your home, and your trees and woodlands for the possibility wildfire.

You need to know  who to call on if there is a fire on your property and what your responsibilities are.


Preparing your property for wildfire involves removing, reducing or replacing combustible materials around your property and home. The US Fire Administration has an excellent outreach section of their website specifically about Fire Prevention and Public Education covering all the basics. Another comprehensive publication is Reducing Fire Risk on Your Forest Property covering many important and helpful points. Planting fire resistant plants is also an excellent way to help mitigate potential damage if a fire comes your way.

Preparation also means having a plan (which has been practiced) in place for what to do in the event of a wildfire. OSU has published an excellent paper on Preparing Your Family for Emergencies (this link downloads a .pdf file), which covers not only wildfire, but other natural and man-made emergencies.


As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. That is nowhere more true than in the case of fire. Taking all possible steps to avoid a fire in the first place is the best course of action.

Debris burning is one of the leading causes of wildfires. Instead of burning debris, consider chipping or recycling. However, if burning is your only option, be sure to:

  • Call your local fire district before you burn to make sure burning is allowed and to get a permit (if required)
  • Know the weather forecast, especially the expected winds
  • If using a burn barrel, cover it with 1/4″ screen, and keep it away from structures, overhanging branches or vehicles
  • Keep piles small; add to the fire gradually to keep control
  • Make sure the fire is completely out (drown! stir! drown!) and monitor for at least 2 hours

Vehicle use, smoking and recreational/camping fires are leading causes of wildfires. Be careful with vehicle use in the woods, especially during extremely dry times of year.

Don’t smoke in the woods; if you do smoke outdoors, extinguish all smoking material and put it in your pocket…

(or otherwise take it home with you) – don’t throw it on the ground. If you allow any camping or campfires on your property, be sure the fires are carefully monitored and fully extinguished.

Who Do You Call?

The majority of people live within city boundaries, and call their local fire department (via 911 in an emergency) in the case of fire. However, if you live outside city limits in an un-incorporated portion of the county, have land classed as forestland, or are in an area designated as a “forest-urban interface,” your responsibilities and who to call can vary.

Before a fire (as part of your preparation), be sure to find out who would fight a fire on your property if it occurred. Call your city, county and/or the Oregon Department of Forestry to get the information. That same agency will probably be the one to issue permits for any debris or other burning and to control when burning may take place.

Fire Preparedness, Emergency & Educational Resources

Special thanks to National Wildland Fire Training for use of images on this page.


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