ODF withdraws ‘wildfire risk map’ amid public outcry

MEDFORD, Ore.– Many people have been calling for the wildfire risk map to be redrawn for weeks now.

Finally, people got their wish. Now, they hope the next map can bring some clarity to the situation.

“Based on our expectations of the legislature, this map is just not right,” State Sen. Jeff Golden said.

Back in June, the Oregon Department of Forestry released the first “wildfire risk map” that told Oregonians what type of fire risk their property was in.

Oregon state researchers worked with ODF to identify the areas with the highest risk to wildfires as part of Senate Bill 762 passed by the legislature in 2021.

Representative Pam Marsh said she felt there was confusion with the risk map and that ODF needed to take a step back.

“Unfortunately, the inclusion of tax slot data was really disorientating and its concerning to people,” Marsh said. “And it became clear that they didn’t understand what the map was about and they were worried about unintended consequences.”

ODF says it withdrew the map so it can fix some of the unintended consequences it has to over 80,000 people who are categorized in either high or extreme fire risk areas defined by the original map.

“We wanted to step back, stop the current appeals process and the current role out of the map,” ODF spokesperson Derek Gasperini said. “So we can take a closer look at some areas that may have anomalies and make it the best map for Oregon.”

When the map was first released, public outcry about an increase or loss in insurance due to the risk map could be seen on social media and in various meetings.

State Senator, Jeff Golden, who sponsored the bill, says people’s insurance may not be going up because of the risk map but due to the wildfires in the last few years.

“Policies are going to get more expensive, so people are going to have trouble finding coverage,” Golden said. “762’s map should not be the basis of that. It may take legislation to make sure they are not.”

ODF says the new map is not likely to be finalized until the end of the year.

Marsh hopes that by stepping back, there will be an opportunity to work with insurance companies and make the situation better overall.

“Maybe we can talk to insurance companies about actually providing incentives for people who are doing good work,” Marsh said. “This should be a positive experience, clearly it hasn’t been interrupted as a positive experience to this point.”

ODF says the current appeals process will end and they will use the appeals to help take a closer look at additional data for a new map.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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