News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Detroit to host meeting on defensible space codes

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

A statewide road trip to discuss codes for defensible space around property will make a stop in Detroit later this month.

The session, one of 17 community town halls offered by the office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM), is from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 30, at the new Detroit city hall and community center at 345 Santiam Ave.

The sessions began Aug. 2 in Southern Oregon and will conclude Sept. 15 in Burns. Two other sessions are reasonably close to the Santiam Canyon: One is at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 17, at the Sisters Community Room on Elm Street, and the other is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 31, at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Albany.

The new statewide code on defensible space is mandated by Senate Bill 762. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed SB 762 on July 19, 2021. The bill is designed to serve as a comprehensive wildfire preparedness and resiliency bill amid the fires that have plagued the state in the past few years, including the Labor Day 2020 blazes that affected the Santiam Canyon.

Key components of the bill, in addition to the defensible space code, includes state wildfire risk maps, work on developing electric system plans, fire-hardening your property, health systems for smoke, emergency response and disaster recovery and wildfire response capacity. 

The Oregon Department of Forestry has pulled back its wildfire risk maps, released at the end of June, because of challenges to their accuracy and utility, but state officials are moving forward with the defensible space work.

“The OSFM is continuing to develop the new defensible space code, which will be complete by December 2022, and the effective date will be announced in 2023,” said a press release from the state fire marshal’s office. “This announcement changes the effective date and where the code will apply, but the code will still be developed by December 2022.”

The risk maps, the defensible space code and the fire-hardening rules are designed to work together. Properties judged to be at high or extreme risk of fire in the wildland urban interface will be required to fire-harden their properties and adhere to the defensible space code. 

Defensible space refers to actions that reduce the amount of hazardous vegetation and combustible material around a building. Fire-hardening covers using certain types of materials and building approaches to make a structure less prone to fire.

Alison Green, public affairs director with the OSFM, said the goal of the town halls is to “gather feedback from folks on the code and answer as many questions as we can. We are focusing these meetings on the code and upcoming grant opportunities to ensure we are staying in our scope in Senate Bill 762.

The fire-hardening code work is being handled by the state’s Building Codes Division. Its deadlines mirror those of the defensible code program.

Defensible Space Code Session

5:30 – 7 p.m. Aug. 30

Detroit City Hall

345 Santiam Ave.

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