Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn & Polk Counties.

The Labor Day fires clearly illustrated that we can and we do have wildfires in western Oregon.  Few have the ferocity of last year’s fires, but they are not unprecedented.  There is abundant evidence of massive fires in both the ecological and historical records. Fire has been, is, and will continue to be part of life here in western Oregon.

The Labor Day fires should have made millions of people around the Willamette Valley aware of that.  We also learned that fire is not limited to rural areas.  Firestorms can invade small towns and also urban areas. The cities of Molalla, Oregon City, Springfield, Pacific City and Medford were all under some level of evacuation advisory in September.  Smoke can lay siege to any community.

We see now that fire preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.

Have the Labor Day fires changed your thinking?  Have you taken steps since the fires to make yourself and your family better prepared?  I hope so.  We all need to take steps individually and with neighbors to help prepare ourselves, and our communities, for fires and smoke.  Being ready for every “next” fire season needs to become a sustained part of our western Oregon lifestyle.

Let us help.  OSU Extension along with many state and local agencies and community partners will be launching a Fire Preparedness campaign in spring 2021. Please watch for more information and plan to participate and learn how to protect yourself and your family from future fire emergencies.  In the meantime, take the self-quiz below.

Your Fire Preparedness Quiz:

  • Do you have an emergency “Go Bag”?
  • Do other family members know where it is?
  • Have you and your family discussed evacuation plans? 
  • Do you know the 3 emergency Evacuation Levels, understand their meaning and actions implied?
  • Are you prepared to protect yourselves from wildfire smoke?
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