SOUTHERN OREGON, Ore. – The new Wildfire Risk Map has a lot of people upset.
Now the Oregon Department of Forestry is trying to calm down the public response and get information out as effectively as it can.
“We are getting inundated with calls and emails,” ODF Public Affairs Officer, Derek Gasperini said.
ODF is getting a lot of feedback from the public, some of whom are upset about the Wildfire Risk Map that was recently released.
Oregon State researchers worked with ODF to identify the areas with the highest risk of wildfires as part of Senate Bill 762, passed by the legislature in 2021.
“Here is where we want to strongly promote, if not regulate, use of defensible space and home hardening,” Gasperini said.
The risk classification is based on a variety of categories including location, topography, vegetation, and other categories that could make fighting fire dangerous or make fire behavior challenging to control.
However, ODF thinks there is a general public misunderstanding of the intent behind the map, how risks classifications were determined, and how it will impact local communities.
“We know that there is a lot of confusion and or misunderstanding of the map so we want to address that,” Gasperini said.
Gasperini says a lot of the public outcry has been centered around rising insurance costs.
Some on social media claim their insurance costs have more than doubled because their property risk has been officially labeled as high or extreme.
However, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation says that insurance rates should not be impacted, because the map reflects risks that insurance already accounts for.
“Many insurance companies have already been doing their own wildfire risk maps and classifications,” Gasperini said.
According to Gasperini, risk classifications are not final and can be appealed, something he encourages if a homeowner believes their property classification is incorrect.
“Every property owner may appeal their designation of risk class and right now people just aren’t clear of what they need to include in that appeal,” Gasperini said.
Gasperini says the informational meetings ODF is planning on having will be good for conveying all information about the appeal process.
Though one meeting was canceled and the other one moved to a virtual meeting, he says ODF is working diligently to answer as many questions as they can.
“We just ask folks for patience in our ability to respond to their individual questions,” Gasperini said.
ODF is unhappy they had to cancel their in-person informational sessions this week, but it hopes to hold more in the near future.
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