(Oregon Department of Forestry) – The Oregon Forestland-Urban Interface Fire Protection Act, often referred to as Senate Bill 360, enlists the aid of property owners toward the goal of turning fire-vulnerable urban and suburban properties into less-volatile zones where firefighters may more safely and effectively defend homes from wildfires. Basically, the law requires property owners in identified forestland-urban interface areas to reduce excess vegetation, which may fuel a fire, around structures and along driveways. In some cases, it is also necessary to create fuel breaks along property lines and roadsides. The act, passed in 1997, applies to all Oregon counties. However, the act has not yet been implemented statewide.
Forestland-urban interface areas are identified in each county by a classification committee. A committee is composed of five members — three appointed by the county, one by the state fire marshal and one by the state forester. The process of identifying forestland-urban interface areas follows steps and definitions described in Oregon Administrative Rules 629-044-1005 through 629-044-0145. Briefly, the identification criteria include:
- Lands within the county that are also inside an Oregon Department of Forestry protection district.
- Lands that meet the state’s definition of “forestland.”
- Lands that meet the definition of “suburban” or “urban”; in some cases, “rural” lands may be included within a forestland-urban interface area for the purpose of maintaining meaningful, contiguous boundaries.
- Lots that are grouped with other lots with similar characteristics in a minimum density of four structures per 40 acres.
Once forestland-urban interface areas are identified, a committee applies fire-risk classifications to the areas. The classifications range from “low” to “extreme,” and the classification is used by a property owner to determine the size of a fuel break that needs to be established around a structure.
After a committee completes its draft identification and classification maps, a public hearing is held to formally exhibit the committee’s findings and hear testimony. The maps are finalized by the committee after the hearing, and the findings are filed with the county clerk and the Oregon Board of Forestry. At that point, the Oregon Department of Forestry assumes administrative responsibility and notifies the owners of properties within the county’s forestland-urban interface areas. Property owners have two years after receiving their letter of notification to comply with the fuel-reduction standards described in OAR 629-044-1050 through 629-044-1085.
For more information, downloads, and telephone numbers, please visit the Oregon Department of Forestry site at http://cms.oregon.gov/odf/pages/fire/sb360/sb360.aspx