July 2, 2021 — On June 30, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a State of Emergency due to an imminent threat of wildfires across the state. The emergency declaration is focused on helping to ensure that the state is prepared to marshal all available and necessary resources quickly as wildfires arise during this wildfire season.
The order comes on the heels of record setting temperatures over last week across the state and concern that this weekend’s statewide Fourth of July firework displays might cause additional fires.
“I issued this emergency declaration to ensure every resource is made available for firefighting efforts and to the crews striving to protect our state. With fire seasons increasingly starting earlier and lasting longer, it is up to each of us to do our part to prevent wildfires and be prepared for the ones we can’t prevent,” Brown said in her statement. “I am urging Oregonians to take charge in preventing human-caused fires by being prepared, safe, responsible and aware.”
Increased concern among residents, many of whom have personal knowledge of the damage wildfires can inflict after multiple years of severe fire destruction in Oregon, prompted a response from Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal Tony Miller and Western Lane Fire and EMS Authority Operations Chief Matt House.
“We will have extra firefighters on duty who will be patrolling the downtown area of Florence as well as at the fireworks launch area at the Port of Siuslaw and in our response areas outside the city limits,” Miller said.
He will also be patrolling in the community and will be in charge of deploying firefighters if they are needed.
Emergency management teams from the fire department, along with those from Western Lane Ambulance, Oregon Department of Forestry, City of Florence and the Florence Police Department, have been in constant contact in order to best plan for and mitigate dangers to the public.
“We will continue watching the weather very closely, but current forecasts seem to indicate that we won’t be seeing any temperature or wind extremes during the weekend,” said House.
Pursuant to ORS 401.165, Brown determined that a threat to life, safety and property exists due to the imminent threat of wildfire. Her declaration authorizes the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal, in coordination with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, to utilize personnel, equipment and facilities from other state agencies in order to respond to or mitigate the effects of the wildfire emergency.
Locally, Florence Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Bettina Hannigan responded to questions about the potential fire hazard presented by the upcoming Fourth of July fireworks display slated for Sunday evening. The event is planned by the chamber, City of Florence and the Port of Siuslaw.
“The fireworks will be launched from the far end of the port property, over the Siuslaw River, which is much safer,” Hannigan said. “The fire department and the Coast Guard will both be on hand and they will have extra staff on duty at the port in case of any problems.”
Fire/EMS Chief Michael Schick has overall responsibility for local first responders and believes Brown’s order will be helpful.
“Hopefully, this will raise the awareness of our citizens to the potential dangers of wildfires while making it easier to move firefighting resources throughout the state as needed,” Schick said.
The governor’s declaration also allows state agencies to temporarily suspend any rules that impair the response to wildfires, if needed, and allows the state to request assistance from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact if necessary.
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July Fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m. on Sunday and will be visible from the Port of Siuslaw Boardwalk area and throughout Historic Old Town.
Fire season is in full swing in Lane County and precautions are necessary throughout the summer and fall; however, the Fourth of July weekend brings additional challenges.
“If you choose to celebrate with fireworks this weekend you should do so legally and with extreme caution,” said Deputy State Fire Marshal Kristina Deschaine. “Be aware of any restrictions that may exist and make fire suppression part of your plan.”
For residents who purchase legal fireworks, the OSFM encourages everyone to practice the four Bs of safe fireworks use:
Oregon law prohibits the possession, use, or sale of any firework that flies into the air, explodes, or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground, without a permit issued by the OSFM. Fireworks commonly called bottle rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers are illegal in Oregon, without a permit.
Know The Restrictions
Fire danger is high throughout our area, which means no campfires (unless otherwise noted for Forest Service-maintained campgrounds), no backyard debris burning, no use of exploding targets or tracer ammunition, and vehicle restrictions on public forest lands.
The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) maintains an interactive website where people can check for the fire danger level in their area, as well as view the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) and related restrictions for industrial operations on ODF-protected lands.
Evaluate Your Property
There are steps both homeowners and renters can take to reduce the risk of wildfire to their homes, including creating defensible space. Homeowners can start by asking themselves whether there are shrubs or trees within 15 feet of their homes or chimneys that can be pruned or removed, is there firewood stacked near their homes that can be moved, or can they use fire-resistant landscaping.