Fire Protection

Southwest Oregon is fire country. Our hot, dry climate and abundant vegetation, combined with many possible sources of ignition from lightning to escaped debris burns, results in dozens of wildland fires every year. Most are contained when they are still small, but under extreme conditions some grow very large, consuming hundreds or even thousands of acres, and sometimes damaging or destroying homes and property. As a landowner, it is your responsibility to protect your home and property from damage from wildfire!

View a map of major wildland fires in SW Oregon since 1970, and a map of wildland fire ignitions in SW Oregon from 1960-2010 (note: these files are each > 9mb).

While fire is often viewed as a negative, it is important to recognize that our local environment evolved with, and is adapted to, wildfire. There is ample historical and physical evidence that the Rogue Valley and the surrounding mountains experienced frequent fire prior to settlement by Europeans in about 1850. Unfortunately, we have experienced a large buildup of fuels in the last 50-100 years, partly due to fire exclusion, which has made fire more severe in many cases when it does occur. Learn more about local fire history and ecology.

Protect Your Home & Family

This home near Jacksonville uses fire-resistant landscaping and construction materials, and hazardous fuels such have been reduced or removed. It is well prepared for wildfire
Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry

Create and maintain a defensible space. Defensible space is the area around a home where vegetation has been modified both to reduce the chance that a wildfire will reach the home, and to make it easier for firefighters to protect it in the event of a fire. Defensible space includes lawns, gardens, hardscapes and other landscaped areas in addition to natural vegetation that has been maintained in a fire-safe condition.

Maintain emergency vehicle access. Your home may have a great defensible space, but can firefighters get there? If you live up a steep, rutted road with overhanging vegetation, don’t assume fire trucks will go there. Contact your local rural fire protection district about required safety driveway standards. And don’t forget to install visible address signs at your driveway entrance and in other important locations.

Get Professional Advice

Rural fire protection districts, which provide structural fire protection, and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), which provides wildland fire suppression, can provide valuable information for homeowners, including on-site evaluation of your property to discuss defensible space needs and other fire protection measures.

Know what to do if a fire does come. Develop a family evacuation plan, and review it annually.

Protect Your Property

Defensible space helped save this home from the 2002 Squire fire near Jacksonville. Photo courtesy of Oregon Deparment of Forestry

You can make your property more fire-resistant and reduce the threat that it will be heavily damaged in the event of a fire by completing hazardous fuels reduction (sometimes called a “clearing”). Fuels reduction involves activities like thinning, pruning, and disposing of excess woody material (slash and debris).

You can find many important texts at the Oregon State University Catalog, such as:

  1. Thinning
  2. Mechanical fuels reduction
  3. Disposing of woody material
  4. Pruning
  5. Reducing Fire Risk on Your Forest Property.

Be Aware of the Rules

Open burning. Many owners choose to dispose of leaves, needles, and woody material through open burning. Because this can generate a lot of smoke and escaped burns may result in wildfires, open burning is strictly regulated in both Jackson and Josephine Counties. Many cities and fire protection districts require permits, and limit the days you’re are allowed to burn. Please call your local fire district or the appropriate number below to find out whether it is a burn day in your area, and what restrictions may apply:

Jackson County (541) 776-7007 Josephine County (541) 476-9663

There is no open or barrel burning during fire season.

The Oregon Forestland-Urban Interface Fire Protection Act (commonly known as Senate Bill 360) requires owners in certain high risk fire areas in both counties to reduce hazardous fuels around homes and along driveways. The Act is administered by the Oregon Department of Forestry. Homeowners meeting the Act’s fuel reduction standards who return the self-certification card to ODF are relieved of liability for the recovery of certain wildfire suppression costs. For more information, contact ODF.

Fire season regulations. Open burning is prohibited during fire season, and there are a variety of other restrictions on activities such as non-agricultural mowing, chainsaw use, campfires, smoking, and off-road vehicle use. The degree of restriction increases with increasing fire danger, and during times of especially high fire danger, certain activities may be prohibited altogether. View current fire season precaution levels & restrictions.

Both Jackson and Josephine Counties have additional fire safety requirements, especially pertaining to new home construction. Structures that require building permits must have fuelbreaks, non-flammable roofing material, and driveway access that will accommodate emergency fire vehicles. Visit the county websites for more information.

Current fire information & news

ODF Southwest Oregon District fire information:

Agencies & Fire Districts