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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-7529

1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204

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Wildfire Risk Reduction

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. The City of Portland is working to reduce that risk: 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.

Before the area was logged, the Willamette Bluffs were covered by a woodland of Oregon oak and native grasses. In many areas, after the last trees were cut, non-native trees seeded in, along with clematis, Scot's broom, and Himalayan blackberry. Soon, impenetrable thickets began to envelop the landscape and the remaining native oaks and other indigenous plants were smothered, resulting in a condition prone to serious wildfire. Highly flammable vines and shrubs act as ladders helping the fire to quickly spread to the tree canopy. Once in the canopy, the fire can easily become catastrophic.

At this location, the Wildfire Risk Reduction Project is focused on reducing hazardous wildfire fuels and eventually restoring the bluffs to Oregon oak woodland, which is much less susceptible to serious wildfire. Without the "ladder fuels" present today, a wildfire would be unlikely to reach the tree canopy and escalate.