In a time of increasing wildfire activity, the Oregon State University Extension Service has implemented a new statewide fire program to help facilitate forest and range management plans.
The program, led by the OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program and the College of Forestry, focuses on creating opportunities for landowners by building partnerships.
With funding allocated by the Oregon Legislature, the fire program will hire a director, a state fire specialist, and six regional fire specialists.
Over the last year, advances in the fire program have assisted in Lake and Klamath counties, where OSU Extension is working to create consistent land management plans for private landowners, according to Carrie Berger, an associate leader for the Forestry and Natural Resources Extension Program.
“As a result, 60,000 to 70,000 acres on both private and public lands have been treated to lessen fire risk by reducing fuel loads, improving forest health and restoring wildlife habitat,” Berger said.
“If we can prioritize where need is the greatest in the state and come up with a diagnosis of what needs to be done, we can come up with a prescription of management treatments. That’s where we’re headed,” said OSU Extension forester Daniel Levell.
Fuels in forests, woodlands and ranges have built up in the last 100 years due to fire suppression, Leavell said. Fires start sooner and burn hotter, with the drier weather.
More homes are located on the edges and middle of forests and woodlands that used to be remote areas. Homes are built in greater numbers and higher densities than ever before.
“We used to have 30 minutes to respond to a house fire,” Leavell said. “Now, with synthetics, laminates and artificial composites throughout homes, we have three. We need to be prepared for that.
“We’re trying to shift attitudes to be more proactive than reactive,” he said.