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Oregon Senate mulls legislation to revise the state's wildfire risk map

The now-pulled Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer map, created by Oregon State University as part of a new wildfire policy directed by Senate Bill 762, outlined wildfire risk at the property ownership level across the state.
Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer
The original, now-defunct Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer map outlined wildfire risk at the property ownership level across the state.

The bill would update the map, which outlines wildfire risk at the property ownership level across the state. A previous version of the map was withdrawn last summer after receiving intense criticism.

Senate Bill 80, which is currently being considered in the Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources, would reclassify the map by "hazard zones" rather than by "risk classes." It says the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University, which created the first map, must do more collaboration this time, including "robust community engagement" with local partners to create the new map, including with the public and county commissioners.

The state’s original wildfire risk map, through Senate Bill 762, was released last summer. The goal was to depict wildfire risk and offer residents ways to protect themselves or mitigate that risk in order to be better prepared for wildfire season.

The map had five statewide wildfire risk classes based on weather, topography, climate and vegetation. It also determined a process for property owners to be notified if their land fell under high or extreme wildfire risk.

However, it was quickly withdrawn in August after receiving intense criticism due to concerns over how it would affect residents’ home insurance rates. Many worried that their insurance rates would be raised or cancelled altogether as a result of high wildfire risk designations.

The new legislation would also create a grant program to make homes more fire resistant, especially for those who live in extreme wildfire hazard zones, are low income or whose homes have been destroyed by wildfire.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will discuss the proposed bill at its meeting on Tuesday morning.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.