Oregon Department of Forestry, state to delay new wildfire risk map

SALEM, Ore — State legislators are delaying the release of a revised wildfire risk map, following mounting backlash from community members.

The map was released last summer, following the passing of senate bill 7-6-2. The bill was sponsored by Ashland state senator Jeff Golden.

Lawmakers directed the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University, to develop a map that showed which communities were most at risk for wildfires.

Golden said the original map had a lot of flaws and was not ground tested. ODF were forced to cancel in-person meetings in the Rogue Valley and move to virtual, after receiving threats.

Officials later withdrew the map for further evaluation. The revised version was scheduled to be released in March, but is now expected sometime this fall.

“Its not going to look a whole lot like the first map did,” Golden said on the revised map. “It really gave the idea that this wildfire program is mostly about regulation and punishing people who don’t do things right. That’s really far from the truth.” 

Part of the pushback from the community, was over the concern about potential increases in insurance rates. Golden and both state officials emphasize that the increases are not related to the map.

Instead, legislators are working on developing the map and other wildfire prevention efforts.

Golden said that could include giving communities incentives.

“It is a huge problem because of the climate effects we see right now. It doesn’t have to do with this bill,” Golden said. “The main point is, what can we do to make sure people who do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk on their property, have access to affordable insurance.” 

In the meantime, Golden wants state officials to act quickly before any potentially disastrous fires.

“We got to remember the size of the risk and stay proactive on this.” said Golden. 

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