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Wildfire and Wildfire Risk


Wildfire is a common and widespread natural hazard in Oregon.

Wildfire is a natural ecological process, but decades of fire suppression along with changes in land use and climate have increased wildfire risk in many areas. Over 41 million acres in Oregon are susceptible. The state experiences large wildfires most years that threaten homes and a range of wildland values.

Wildfires in Oregon can occur during any time of year, but nearly all burn between July and October. No area within the state is completely free from wildfire. Fires ignited by lightning or humans are common in the dry forests and grasslands of central, southwestern and northeastern Oregon.

These wildfire-prone areas support most of the state's fastest growing communities.

What is Wildfire Risk?

The Society for Risk Analysis defines risk as "the potential for realization of unwanted, adverse consequences to human life, health, property or the environment." In other words, risk is the exposure to the chance of loss of something we value.

Wildfire risk is the potential for a wildfire to adversely affect things that humans value — lives, homes, or ecological functions and attributes.

Wildfire risk in a particular area is a combination of

  • the chance that a wildfire will start in or reach that area and
  • the potential loss of human values if it does

Human activities, weather patterns, wildfire fuels, values potentially threatened by fire, and the availability (or lack) of resources to suppress a fire all contribute to wildfire risk.