Fire risk map axed

 

Last updated 8/9/2022 at Noon



On August 4, just five weeks after publishing a wildfire risk map, the state Forestry Department axed it.

That move follows a chorus of complaints from Republican state lawmakers and residents in southern and eastern Oregon who said the rollout of the map was clumsily handled and led to people losing their property insurance or having premiums doubled. They said the Oregon Department of Forestry was ill-equipped to handle the impacts of the map in the middle of fire season.

The latest criticism came Thursday, with a statement by state Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson, leader of the Oregon House Republicans Caucus: “State and federal land mismanagement are the driving force behind our wildfire issues, not private land, but these maps leave most of the burden on private land owners.”

State Senate Republican leader Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend said Thursday he asked Gov. Kate Brown to withdraw the map.

“The growing outrage over high-risk classifications of primarily rural property threatens to overwhelm the Oregon Department of Forestry with thousands of appeals that the agency will be unable to handle,” Knopp said.

And unaffiliated gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson also called Thursday on the Forestry Department to withdraw it.

Created by the department and Oregon State University, the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer map was part of a state push to protect Oregonians against wildfires. The searchable map showed the wildfire risk of 2 million tax lots across the state, categorizing them in five categories: no, low, moderate, high, or extreme risk. About 80,000 property owners were found to be in high or extreme risk areas, and received letters telling them that they could be subject to fire-resistant building codes currently under development.

The creation of the map was ordered under Senate Bill 762, which passed during the 2021 legislative session.

Republished under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, courtesy https://oregoncapitalchronicle.com/.

 

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