How is OSU Using Science to Support the Development and Implementation of Statewide Wildfire Risk Reduction Strategies?
Senate Bill 762 is comprehensive legislation passed in 2021 by the Oreon legislature that provides more than $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness through three key strategies: (1) creating fire-adapted communities, (2) developing safe and effective response, and (3) increasing the resiliency of Oregon's landscapes. Section 7 of SB762 directs Oregon State University (OSU) to create three specific maps and to make them publicly available on the updated Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer (OWRE).
All three maps were produced after more than 60 hours of discussion and planning in a Rules Advisory Committee (RAC) that included agency partners and a wide array of stakeholders. OSU provided technical guidance to the RAC and helped demonstrate how available data and methods could be used to meet the intent of SB762. With guidance from the RAC, OSU applied the best available science to produce all three data products.
On Aug. 4, the wildfire risk map that was released on June 30, has been temporarily withdrawn for further refinement. These refinements will incorporate feedback received from more than 2,000 Oregonians through the appeals process and public engagement sessions. OSU will work with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to identify and evaluate science-based, objective potential changes to the statewide wildfire risk map. ODF has not set a timetable for these revisions because we want to allow ample time for the public process and to engage communities to get the best product possible.
The appeals process has also been suspended. Appeals already submitted by property owners will be used to identify areas where refinements may be needed to the risk map. Once the map is refined, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) will bring the draft of the updated map to communities for discussion and input. After another round of revisions based on local input, the map will be finalized which will start a new notification and 60-day appeals process. Visit the wildfire risk map appeals page to learn more about what will happen to appeals that have been received.
This decision does not impact the code adoption processes currently underway through Office of the State Fire Marshal for defensible space or Building Codes Division for home hardening.
What Data Products Are Being Produced?
Statewide map of wildfire risk
Minimizing future damage to Oregon communities is a key pillar of SB762. OSU used peer-reviewed methods and the best available data to assess risk to buildings on properties across the state. As required by SB762, OSU classified risk values into five categories: no, low, moderate, high, and extreme risk. This map is the official map of wildfire risk to structures and other human developments in Oregon. It will be updated every five years [1, 2, 3].Learn more about mapping wildfire risk
Statewide map of the wildland-urban interface (WUI)
The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is where homes mix with flammable vegetation and people and property are at elevated risk from wildfire. In an effort to help direct state resources towards the parts of the state most at risk, and to inform policies that guide future development, OSU mapped the WUI across Oregon. OSU's methods are consistent with best available science as well as the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code and the U.S. Congress. The WUI map will be used in conjunction with the statewide risk map to identify structures and other human developments that may be subject to regulation by state agencies under SB762 [4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].Learn more about the WUI
Statewide map of social vulnerability
Wildfire exposure and loss do not affect all communities equally. Wildfires disproportionately impact Oregon’s most vulnerable communities. OSU created a social vulnerability index (SVI) to quantify and map vulnerability across Oregon. The map will be used to direct state resources to communities most in need of assistance in preparing for wildfires.Learn more about social vulnerability
Simplified flowchart of how the three data products developed by OSU will be used together to develop and enforce defensible space rules established under Section 8 of SB762. This is one example of how the three maps will be used in conjunction, but there are other examples from SB762.
The maps developed by OSU provide a science-based, objective foundation for state agencies to implement their responsibilities under SB762. For instance:
Under Section 8, the Office of State Fire Marshal is mandated to use the statewide wildfire risk and WUI maps to adopt a statewide minimum defensible space code. Defensible space helps protect homes in the event of a wildfire and offers a safe space around homes and communities where firefighters can take suppression action. Learn more.
- Under Section 11, the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is responsible for recommending updates to statewide land use planning and local land use plans and zoning codes that will reduce wildfire risk to Oregon communities, including the appropriate levels of state and local resources necessary for effective implementation. DLCD’s recommendations “may include but are not limited to provisions regarding sufficient defensible space, building codes, safe evacuation, and development considerations,” allowing for regional differences. DLCD will rely on the maps developed by OSU to make its recommendations. DLCD’s report must be submitted to the Wildfire Programs Advisory Council and Oregon Legislature by October 1, 2022. DLCD is currently conducting a community engagement process that will run through September 2022. Learn more.
- Under Section 12, the Department of Consumer and Business Services is responsible for adopting fire hardening building code standards for new development and significant home updates for properties in the WUI that are mapped as high and extreme risk based on OSU’s statewide maps. Code amendments will be adopted by October 1, 2022 and will become effective on April 1, 2023. Learn more.
In addition to supporting state agencies, the data is all publicly available for property owners and communities to learn about and plan for their wildfire risk. Take a closer look at data here: https://oregonexplorer.info/wildfirerisk. You can email the OSU team with questions about the three maps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Dunn, C.J., O’Connor, C.D., Abrams, J., Thompson, M.P., Calkin, D.E., Johnston, J.D., Stratton, R., Gilbertson-Day, J., 2020. Wildfire risk science facilitates adaptation of fire-prone social-ecological systems to the new fire reality. Environ. Res. Lett. 15, 025001. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab6498
- Scott, J.H., Thompson, M.P., Calkin, D.E., 2013. A wildfire risk assessment framework for land and resource management (No. RMRS-GTR-315). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft. Collins, CO. https://doi.org/10.2737/RMRS-GTR-315
- Thompson, M., Bowden, P., Brough, A., Scott, J., Gilbertson-Day, J., Taylor, A., Anderson, J., Haas, J., 2016. Application of Wildfire Risk Assessment Results to Wildfire Response Planning in the Southern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Forests 7, 64. https://doi.org/10.3390/f7030064
- Bar-Massada, A., Stewart, S.I., Hammer, R.B., Mockrin, M.H., Radeloff, V.C., 2013. Using structure locations as a basis for mapping the wildland urban interface. J. Environ. Manage. 128, 540–547. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.06.021
- Caggiano, M.D., Hawbaker, T.J., Gannon, B.M., Hoffman, C.M., 2020. Building Loss in WUI Disasters: Evaluating the Core Components of the Wildland–Urban Interface Definition. Fire 3, 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3040073
- Executive Order 13728 (Executive Order No. 81 FR 32221), 2016. Executive Office of the President, Washington D.C. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/DCPD-201600328/pdf/DCPD-201600328.pdf
- International Code Council, 2020. 2021 International Wildland Urban Interface Code. https://codes.iccsafe.org/content/IWUIC2021P1
- LANDFIRE 2.0, 2019. 40 Scott and Burgan Fire Behavior Fuel Models Layer [WWW Document]. URL https://landfire.gov/fbfm40.php
- Li, S., Dao, V., Kumar, M., Nguyen, P., Banerjee, T., 2022. Mapping the wildland-urban interface in California using remote sensing data. Sci. Rep. 12, 5789. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-09707-7
Why is OSU making the wildfire risk map?
Section 7 of Senate Bill 762 directed OSU to coordinate with the Oregon Department of Forestry to develop a statewide wildfire risk map for all structures and other human developments.
OSU is a trusted, non-biased source of wildfire risk information. Since 2006, the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer, a program of the Institute of Natural Resources at OSU, has been a public source of geospatial data and wildfire risk information used in state, regional and local risk management applications. Scientists at OSU have demonstrated leadership in the development and application of wildfire risk science.
How can I find the wildfire risk classification for my property?
A map of wildfire risk across the entire state is publicly available on the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer: https://oregonexplorer.info/wildfirerisk. All properties within the extreme or high-risk categories will receive a written notice from the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2022. The written notice will include the property’s wildfire risk designation, information about how property owners can access the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer interface, a description of resources available to address wildfire risk, information regarding what the wildfire risk assignment means for the property owner, and information about how a property owner may appeal the assignment of wildfire risk class.
What if my community already has a local wildfire plan?
OSU's is solely focused on map creation, not policy implementation, and decisions around wildfire plans are not within OSU's jurisdiction. Some types of locally developed wildfire plans can be incorporated into the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer if the local jurisdiction chooses. Local wildfire plans will complement, but will not supersede the statewide wildfire risk map. Qualified types of plan include:
- Community Wildfire Protection Plans developed under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act;
- Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans developed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act; or
- Firewise USA Action Plans developed under the Firewise USA Program administered by the National Fire Protection Association.
Where can I learn more about SB762 and related programs?
- 2021 Senate Bill 762
- Oregon Department of Forestry
- Office of the State Fire Marshal (defensible space)
- Office of the State Fire Marshal (other wildfire programs):
- Department of Consumer and Building Services
- Department of Land Conservation and Development