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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

Project Background

In Portland, twenty percent of the city's acreage is urban greenspace - natural areas, stream corridors, parks, and open spaces - features that contribute to quality of life by providing scenery, recreation trails, wildlife habitat, and clean water. However, the wild spaces within our urban area also present challenges. As development expands at the boundaries of our urban natural areas, the risk of significant property loss due to wildfires increases.

Historically, fires swept through western Oregon - clearing grasses, shrubs, and fallen branches, but leaving larger fire resistant trees and more open forest. As Portland grew as a city, residents and business owners wanted protection from fires. Consequently, we've put out fires routinely for many years. Our grasslands and forested green spaces haven't burned regularly; today trees grow close together, branches and duff cover the forest floor, and in many places, invasive weeds like Himalayan blackberry, Scot's broom, and canary grass blanket the ground.

What's more, houses dot the west hills and neighborhoods line the river's bluffs and climb the slopes of our forested buttes. The location of these homes, at the interface with fire prone natural areas, makes firefighting more complicated, expensive, difficult, and dangerous. It is time to take action.

The City of Portland bureaus of Parks & Recreation, Fire & Rescue, and Environmental Services are initiating a three-year project (2006-09) to reduce the potential for significant wildfires in Oaks Bottom, the Willamette Bluffs, Powell Butte, and Forest Park. MAP

Portland Fire & Rescue, with the assistance of Oregon Department of Forestry, has identified and mapped each of these sites as significant fire prone areas because of their buildup of flammable materials and their proximity to neighborhoods and commercial areas. Over 8,000 homes and businesses worth more than $2.5 billion lie within the fire prone area.

Work will be completed in phases beginning with an analysis of each focus area and followed by creation of site-specific action plans and on-the-ground work at each site to reduce flammable vegetation and replace weeds with native plants. The project, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Oregon's Office of Emergency Management, is part of the City's overall Emergency Preparedness effort. The activities undertaken with the project will allow us to begin the implementation of the citywide Wildfire Disaster Mitigation Plan.