1. Is Lane County really at risk to wildfire?
Yes. Lane County is nearly 90% forestland and a large number of dwellings and other structures are interspersed throughout areas at risk to wildland fires. This area is referred to as the wildland urban-interface or WUI and in Lane County it’s very large.
2. Isn’t Lane County’s wildfire risk low when compared to other parts of the state?
Not really. Statewide, Lane County’s risk is above average. It is true that compared to some regions within the state Lane County experiences fewer annual wildfire events. This is primarily attributed to the dryer climates in those regions which results in longer fire seasons. Regardless of this fact, Lane County is still at risk. Decades of fuel accumulation has created a situation where the potential for a massive and life threatening conflagration is possible.
3. Why develop a CWPP?
There are several great reasons to develop a community wildfire protection plan. First and foremost, a successful CWPP provides a community with a set of goals, actions and resources specifically designed to address the threat of wildfire. These goals, actions and resources can help:
- Enhance public safety
- Improve economic resiliency through the identification and protection of critical infrastructure and businesses at risk
- Restore and protect ecosystem health
- Raise public awareness about wildfire risks
- Educate landowners of their shared responsibility in wildfire protection
- Build new partnerships between local, state and federal fire fighting agencies, community organizations and businesses
- Realize opportunities for collaboration
Finally, a CWPP is a critical tool required in order to leverage funding for hazard mitigation and recovery work through the National Fire Plan, FEMA mitigation grants and other resources. Under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 communities that seek funding from the federal government for hazardous fuels reduction work are required to develop a protection plan. The minimum requirementsfor a conforming CWPP as described in the HFRA are:
- Collaboration: A CWPP must be collaboratively developed by local and state government representatives, in consultation with federal agencies and other interested parties.
- Prioritized Fuel Reduction: A CWPP must identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommend the types and methods of treatment that will protect one or more at-risk communities and essential infrastructure.
- Treatment of Structural Ignitability: A CWPP must recommend measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the area addressed by the plan.
4. How long have wildfire protection plans been around for?
Land management agencies have been conducting “wildfire assessments” for several years but the creation of formal wildfire protection plan developed at the local level is a relatively new concept. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which was signed in to law in December 2003, first defined a CWPP and established incentives for communities to create them.
To view the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, click here
In March 2004 the Handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities was published, offering a detailed, how-to manual for creating a CWPP. Lane County was one of the first jurisdictions in Oregon to adopt a wildfire plan using the standards set forth in the handbook.
To view the Handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities, click here
5. Who initiates and drives the process of creating a CWPP?
Local governments, watershed councils or affiliated community groups can spearhead the effort to create a CWPP. Three partners must sign off on the final plan: the local government or municipality, the local fire protection department(s) and the state forestry management agency. Other groups and federal agencies are also encouraged to participate in the process.
The Lane CWPP was developed as a collaborative effort between the County, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Lane County Fire Defense Board - representing local fire protection within the county.
6. The Lane County CWPP seems very general. Can more refined wildfire plans be created for smaller areas within Lane County?
Yes. The Lane County CWPP is a broad, planning and prioritization tool. Small communities and citizen groups are strongly encouraged to develop localized plans. For more information about initiating a local CWPP in Lane County, contact Keir Miller with the Lane County Land Management Division at (541) 682-4631.
7. What are the next steps for the Lane County CWPP?
Twenty-one separete "action items" are articulated within the plan for 2005-2006. These action items include a range of proposed activities including: hazardous fuel mitigation work, increased commuity education and outreach and refined risk assessment analysis.
Each year the CWPP Steering Committee will evaluate and refine existing action items and identify and propose new activities to help reduce the threat of wildfire to Lane County citizens. In 2007, efforts will focus on public education to help ensure that citizens are aware of the threat of wildfire and that they are informed of measures they can take to help reduce their risks.