Fire Season: Your Guide to Safety and Preparation

Benton County is almost a month into fire season and the likelihood of a busy fire season is high, but there are some ways to prevent and prepare for that possibility. 

Even now, the hot and dry weather is feeding the Bootleg Fire, which has burned more than 201,000 acres and destroyed seven homes in Klamath County.    

In our area, most fires are caused by people, so one of the most important things to do is prevent fires from happening at all.  

Prevention 

There is already a backyard burn ban in place, but it is also important to be aware that on hot, windy days, sparks from things such as lawn mowers, hedgers, weed eaters, can still be quite dangerous. 

Homeowners can also help protect their home by getting rid of dry, dead plants around a property, keeping grass and brush short, and watering plants well. Additionally, Using fire resistant building materials for construction, renovation, & landscaping can also help keep a property safer and/or slow a fire. 

For those enjoying some recreational time outside, check the rules of the area for campfires and read the official safety guide here 

Preparation 

One of the most important things during fire season is being aware and ready in the case of a nearby fire. 

Linn-Benton ALERT and Corvallis ALERT both offer text or email alerts to those who sign up to receive them, and The National Weather Service also offers a fire watch to  keep an eye on weather conditions that may lend to a fire within 12 to 72 hours. 

Knowing the Five P’s of Evacuation (People, Prescriptions, Papers, Personal Needs, and Priceless Items) and keeping a list of everything to grab is important. Things like photo ID, proof of address and medical records can be safeguarded ahead of time and there is a guide here. 

There are three evacuation levels to know and be aware of. At Level 1, “BE READY” for potential evacuation. Level 2 means “BE SET” to evacuate, and Level 3 means “GO.” 

Experts recommend preparing in advance by packing emergency supplies and practicing escape routes, planning several both by car and on foot, and knowing your family’s plan. A plan should include ways to communicate, and what to do in emergency situations or any situation that could arise during evacuation. Cellular networks could be congested, but texts might be able to get through so having a group chat or several could really help then process. 

Even if there isn’t a fire near your home, it can still cause power outages and contaminate drinking water, so have emergency preparations for those instances just in case.   

Evacuation and Aftermath 

In the case of a Level 3 evacuation, leave immediately in order to have the best chance. Those with asthma may want to consider evacuating even before then to minimize complications from smoke. 

Upon leaving, be sure to roll up windows and close air vents to avoid any irritation from the smoke. 

If and when officials say you can return home, be sure not to go inside if it’s damaged. Qualified professionals should look it over and make sure it is safe to do so. Also, be on the look out for “heat pockets” underground from burning roots. They could injure someone or even start another fire. 

For more information, visit https://www.ready.gov/wildfires. 

By: Hannah Ramsey