Forest fire risk when buying a home in Oregon: how to assess fire safety or prepare your current property


Portland Real Estate Agent Catherine rosson was tempted to buy a house in Southern California last summer, but as wildfires raged across the state, she decided not to.

She learned that the hilltop dwelling she was considering was in a fire zone and that San Diego firefighters had used the property as a staging area when fighting fires in the area. .

Rosson later discovered that effective January 1, 2021, California requires a seller to disclose whether a residential property for sale is located in a high fire risk area. The information document, signed by the seller and the buyer, also reveals the possible vulnerabilities and defensible characteristics.

“To my knowledge, Oregon does not have such a clause,” said Rosson of eXp Realty. “When buying a property adjacent to forest areas, the question must be asked: is a forest fire likely? The buyer must always exercise due diligence.

The biggest purchase most people make – their home – should come with a lot of guarantees. In addition to the traditional pre-sale inspections from the foundation of the house to the roof, some homebuyers in Oregon want to know if their next place could be the target of hell.

The Oregon Forest Fire Hazard Explorer The tool allows homeowners and potential buyers to enter an address and receive a general summary of what is known as the “home ignition zone”, along with recommendations for mitigating the potential for blown flames. .

But the tool does not replace a field assessment by a professional forester or fire personnel, according to the website disclaimer.

In Portland, landowners in wildfire risk areas can ask for a home assessment of the wild-urban interface, led by Portland Fire & Rescue, to learn specific tasks to do to reduce the risk of fire.

Across the state, residents take advantage of the free Forest Fire Risk Assessment offered by Ashland Fire & Rescue and the city’s Wildfire Safety Commission. And lately, homeowners who want to renovate their property for sale are also asking for advice.

The reason: Fire-wise features can become a selling point for potential buyers.

Homes for sale are typically staged to make the interior more appealing to home buyers who view photographs online or visit the property in person. And clutter – a fire hazard – is usually eliminated.

Common repairs also: Portland Fire & Rescue’s safety checklist includes ensuring that electrical and heating equipment is in good working order and does not overheat, and smoke detectors and carbon dioxide detectors are required.

Sellers could take it to the next level to prepare a house for sale in a fire zone. They could replace old plastic in skylights with glass that won’t melt or remove combustible junipers and add fire-resistant native plants to the yard. A steel fence can replace a wooden fence, a wooden fence and a wire mesh installed under a bridge can block the flying embers.

Ashland’s free assessment of the home’s exterior and landscape is conducted by volunteers who have received on-the-job training and mentoring from city firefighters, and information modeled on outreach services from Oregon State University. Citizen Fire Academy.

The fire mitigation volunteer walks the property and points out potential dangers – propane tanks should be in a well-ventilated area, away from structures – and suggests changes such as cleaning gutters from needles, dried leaves and gutters. twigs that may catch fire.

Fire extinguishing work reduces the vulnerability of a home and the entire community, said Colin Mullane of Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland, who doesn’t hesitate to explain that Ashland is in a forest fire risk area.

Mullane and other members of the Rogue Valley Real Estate Association Provide customers with brochures that recommend buying a home with fire-resistant features such as wood-free siding and double-glazed windows that are less likely to shatter in intense heat.

“We talk to potential buyers and make sure they are aware of wildfires,” Mullane said. “I don’t think there’s a community in the Pacific Northwest, or one in California, Montana, or Alaska that doesn’t have this discussion.”

Members of the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors distribute brochures dealing with forest fire hazards.Rogue Valley Real Estate Association

Greg Addington, head of government affairs for the Rogue Valley Real Estate Association, said the group received an educational grant of $ 35,000 from the National Association of Real Estate Agents to create an awareness campaign on Fire-friendly communities.

Fire prevention tips are provided through the print brochure, digital ads and Facebook posts.

The grant also paid state-certified building inspectors be trained to conduct forest fire assessments.

Potential buyers hire inspectors to point out needed repairs to the home, potential dangers, and now parts of a property that are prone to burning. Whether the issues are resolved and who pays the expenses is negotiated between buyer and seller.

The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors began work on the outreach program two years ago, just before the 2020 Almeda fire destroyed homes in Ashland, Talent and Phoenix. But the campaign has only just begun.

“It’s a collaborative and holistic approach to living in an area that will have wildfires,” Mullane said. “It’s all about preparation, awareness and knowing what to do. “

Oregon’s defensible space law requires landowners reduce excess vegetation around structures. Depending on the fire risk, some areas also need fuel breaks along property and road boundaries.

Creating a lean, green landscape that can slow, resist, or stop the spread of a fire not only improves the home’s curb appeal, but also allows a defensible space to be a selling advantage.

Ground covers, perennials, shrubs and trees that resist fire have high humidity, flexible leaves and a watery sap. Some of Oregon’s iconic trees, such as dogwood and Japanese maple, are on the list of low flammability trees.

And trees pruned to prevent a ground fire from climbing and spreading make a landscape look neat and well-maintained.

Irrigated areas which include grass and clusters of native plants or succulents surrounded by rocks, not bark of wood, can serve as fire buffers with patios, gravel driveways and aisles.

There is no guarantee that you will receive a warning before you need to evacuate due to a fire or other life-threatening emergency.

Subscribe to notifications: Register for Public alerts, Citizen Alert or a service in your county be notified by text, call or email from emergency response agencies when you need to take action such as shelter in place or evacuating.

Have an escape plan: Make sure everyone in your house knows how to get out of a building safely, where you will all meet, and how to contact each other if the phones aren’t working.

Prepare a backpack: Assemble a small bag with essentials like a first aid kit that you can grab while fleeing.

– Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072 | @janeteastman

The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors distributes brochures to clients stating that all of Ashland is in a wildfire risk area.  The brochure suggests fire-hardened features buyers should look for, from a fire-resistant, wood-free coating and double-glazed or tempered glass less prone to shattering in intense heat.

The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors distributes brochures to clients stating that all of Ashland is in a wildfire risk area. The brochure suggests fire-hardened features buyers should look for, from a fire-resistant, wood-free coating and double-glazed or tempered glass less likely to shatter under intense heat.Rogue Valley Real Estate Association

· Fire prevention starts in the backyard: “I don’t know what precaution will save my house, so do as much as I can”

· Fire experts prefer these very humid plants

· Fire preparedness begins with an escape plan and backpacks for family and pets

More information on fire prevention can be found at the Oregon Department of Forestry Youtube channel and website:

· Your home can survive a forest fire

· How to secure your home and property against fires

· Oregon Forest Fire Hazard Explorer Digital library

· How to become a Fire-wise community

· Community forest fire protection plans

· Landscaping checklist in case of fire

· Pacific Northwest Fire-Friendly Communities

· Tips for safely burning debris

· Fire detection standards for homes and structures


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