To obtain additional information, reach out to the Oregon Department of Forestry. Collaborating with state and local authorities, you can contribute to establishing a defendable area on your property. As a resident, you can also take steps to minimize the likelihood of wildfires in the vicinity. The second action involves implementing prescribed fire to eliminate the non-marketable debris and wood following the logging process (referred to as fuels reduction). Commercial logs will be transported to nearby mills using log trucks. This task will be accomplished using helicopters, cables, and ground-based yarding. One of the activities includes thinning the forest that borders the communities. Two primary actions are currently being carried out, operating within the framework of the project Decision Notice, to mitigate the risk of wildfires.
In the last 25 years, we have experienced many more smaller fires as well as larger ones in these towns within a ten-mile radius. The risk of large wind-driven fires is increasing, especially in the area where the tops of trees are touching or close to each other. Most of these forests are now densely stocked with a variety of species ranging in age from 80 to 120 years, with a heavy presence of Douglas-fir. The forests in the project area were shaped by fires such as the Fire Mountain Dead and Creek Flat in the 1910s and 1930s, and the North Fork Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
How it Works
The project includes work that involves removing and cutting trees under seven inches in diameter, as well as other material and shrubs that were not removed by logging. It also includes cleaning up the tops of trees and burning prescribed fires to remove debris and leaves. This project reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires by reducing the density of trees in the forest, making it less likely for a fire to move through the tree canopy. Additionally, increasing the spacing between trees means that there is less material for a fire to burn when it occurs.
(Left photo) Forest stand before a thinning treatment. (Right photo) Adjacent area after thinning to a spacing similar to that of the Oakridge/Westfir Thinning and Fuels Reduction project.
Reducing the Risk of Wildfire
The purpose of the project is to reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) around Oakridge and Westfir, specifically in the north area of Prairie High and Oakridge. This will help maintain and restore the historic landscape, improve conditions for vigor and growth of the forest, reduce fire suppression costs, and increase the safety of firefighters and the public. Over the last 125 years, the project area has experienced extensive crown fires with high intensity, burning large acreage on Mountain Dead three times: in 1883, 1910, and 1967. Since 1988, almost 20,000 acres have burned within 11 miles of Oakridge. Living in the area of Westfir and Oakridge means being surrounded by lush forests and beautiful mountains, but it also means being at risk from wildfires.
In order to reduce risk of a catastrophic, large wildfire to the Oakridge/Westfir and the High Prairie areas, the Middle Fork Ranger District cooperatively with the City of Oakridge, Emergency Services Department, the Hazeldell Rural Fire Protection District, the City of Westfir, and the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) designed and begun implementing a thinning and fuels reduction project. The project takes place on Willamette National Forest lands north of Oakridge and Westfir, and east of High Prairie. It is designed to complement the Lane County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), which assists land owners in reducing fire risk on private lands.
Oakridge/Westfir Thinning and Fuels Reduction Project
Frequently Asked Questions
What has been accomplished?
Work is currently underway to thin three timber sales on the east side of Oakridge. We have also completed three prescribed burns along Forest Service Road 19. Additionally, we have treated 300 acres near the Fish Hatchery and along Airport Road by removing small trees with a diameter of seven inches or less. In March, we thinned approximately 500 acres of forest near Westfir along Forest Service Road 19 and another approximately 300 acres on Dead Mountain.
How will this project impact the average citizen?
Your home will be safer from wildfires, while the projects are fully completed and not highly visible from the town. The Dead Mountain Trail is temporarily closed due to its proximity to burning and logging activities. You are likely to see smoke in the air when we burn. You will probably see more log trucks on Salmon Creek Road, Fish Hatchery Road, Westfir/Oakridge Road, MacFarland Road, and Prairie High Road. As the project continues, you may hear logging-related noises such as yarders and overhead helicopters flying.
How many acres will you be burning?
We expect to conduct prescribed burns on approximately 1,500 acres in total when thinning is complete, spreading the work out over several years. In 2018, we anticipate conducting burns on approximately 40 acres on the east side of Prairie High near Oakridge and approximately 200 acres outside of Westfir.
How do you manage smoke?
To promote cleaner burning, Oregon’s management directives ensure that they thoroughly cover all of our debris piles. We strictly adhere to the prescribed burning guidelines to avoid any potential issues and to protect the air quality for sensitive individuals during yellow and red air quality days. Our prescribed burning plan allows us to carry the smoke away from the area and minimize its impacts, giving us the best opportunity to burn efficiently.
What if the fire escapes?
There will be several crews of firefighters working daily to monitor the sites, and they will burn. In addition, we will have a fire line completely built around the unit with a hose line. We have set up several defense lines to keep up with the prescribed burns.
Can I do anything to help?
We can also assist you in completing this work at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s contact number (541)726-3588. Additionally, we can provide you with further information to help explain the goal of this project to your neighbors and friends. Residents can also use our services to make their properties more defensible in the event of a wildfire by becoming Firewise.
Where can I get more information?
Please contact us at the Middle Fork Ranger District: 541-782-2283 if you have any inquiries or worries regarding this undertaking. Progress reports will be published on InciWeb at https://inciweb.Nwcg.Gov/incident/5757/ and on our Facebook and Twitter platforms.