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Oregonians are united in concerns about wildfires, poll finds

Kristyna Wentz-Graff
Remains of the devastation from the 2020 Beachie Creek Fire in the small town of Gates on Feb. 26, 2021.

Despite the deep political divides that exist in the state, Oregonians on both sides of the political spectrum agree wildfires are a major concern.

It makes sense: Wildfires burned more than 800,000 acres in the summer of 2021.

As the state braces for yet another wildfire season — forestry officials called firefighters across the nation once again for help — a statewide survey shows that despite ideological backgrounds, political party, income, education or age, there is a widespread belief that wildfires are a growing concern in the state.

The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide poll from June 2-11 to gather Oregonians’ attitudes and perceptions about wildfires in the state.

When given a list of possible negative repercussions from wildfires, Oregonians are primarily concerned with the health effects of smoke, the loss of fish habitat and wildlife and the severity of wildfires.

Less than half of the Oregonians polled approved of how wildfires are currently managed by either landowners or the government. A majority of those polled, 78%, said there should be periodic controlled burns of forests to help stave off large uncontrolled fires. Those methods that target saving homes are particularly popular, with 89% of Oregonians supporting clearing space around homes and 85% supporting preparing homes to be more fire-resistant.

In 2020 wildfires burned about 4,000 homes. As part of a sweeping wildfire preparedness package, lawmakers created a new mapping process to identify what homes are most at risk. About 120,000 property owners could be labeled as having high or extreme fire risk and may need to comply with coming requirements to safeguard their homes. There is state money to help them do so.

The new Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer allows Oregonians to search their address to discover whether their home is in a high-risk area.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Oregon has a one-of-its-kind insurance policy to help offset the cost of fighting wildfires.
InciWeb /
Oregon has a one-of-its-kind insurance policy to help offset the cost of fighting wildfires.

Lauren Dake