Wildfires

Fires regularly burned the Willamette Valley, including the Tualatin River watershed, before the arrival of white Euro-Americans. The region’s Indigenous Peoples used fire to shape the ecosystem to sustain their diverse societies and cultures. Lightning-made fires would burn unchallenged, clearing out excess fuel like dead bushes and downed branches.

Oregon is seeing more intense wildfires. These fires are a result of warmer temperatures caused by climate change and a lack of regular prescribed burning. This makes our natural areas drier and more susceptible to fire.

Fire Risk in Wetlands and Near Streams

Local groups are planting along streams across the Tualatin River Watershed. It may seem counter-intuitive, but creating dense areas of native plants next to streams decreases the risk of fire in those areas.

Before planting along streams, workers remove invasive plants like blackberries, Scotch broom and reed canary grass. Fire experts at OSU consider these invasive plants to be fuel that can increase fire risk. Then, workers replace those plants with diverse mixes of native plants, which are more fire resistant.

If you’d like to explore programs to remove invasive plants and install native plants, please contact the Tualatin SWCD.

Protect Habitat and Create Defensible Space

Consider these tips to help preserve wildlife habitat while working to protect your home from wildfire:

  • Avoid cutting branches and mowing tall grass during bird nesting season (April - June)
  • Prune when plants have finished flowering and have made seeds (late June or early July)
  • Leave brush along streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands.
    • Note that areas next to streams are part of protected Vegetated Corridors. Contact Clean Water Services before removing any brush from these areas.
  • You may need a permit for tree removal. Contact your city or Washington County for more information.
  • Do not dispose of yard debris, leaves, sticks, or wood in natural areas or greenspace.