SALEM, OR -- Redmond State Representative Jack Zika is pushing for a bill he says creates accountability for a 20-year-old wildfire prevention law, "It's the Fire Protection Act of 1997. At first, it gave the counties two years to identify areas around our forestland-urban interface - so the area right around the cities - to incentivize property owners to create fuel breaks of 30-feet." But, he says, since it was signed into law, Oregon's Department of Forestry has failed to execute its mandates. Zika aims to change that. "This was started from my predecessor, Gene Whisnant, and now I've kind of taken it on as a project. It would require ODF to go and implement this. This bill will actually make them report to the Legislature, now, and update us on their progress."
Zika tells KBND News the act also encourages land owners to remove ladder fuels, which can help a wildfire grow. He believes the fire that destroyed Paradise, California proves more needs to be done to protect communities near forestland. He says Central Oregon towns like Sisters and Sunriver are at highest risk.
House Bill 2222 passed out of the Natural Resources Committee on a unanimous vote Thursday and is headed to a full House vote.
UPDATE (03/28/19): House Bill 222 unanimously passed the House Thursday and is headed to the Senate for consideration.
UPDATE (05/15/19): A wildfire protection bill is headed to the Governor after a unanimous vote in the Senate, Tuesday. Its Chief Sponsor, Redmond State Representative Jack Zika, says the bill imposes accountability for the 1997 Oregon Forestland-Urban Interface Act. It provides property owners with incentives to remove ladder fuels to protect against a catastrophic wildfire. But, Zika says it wasn’t fully implemented by the Department of Forestry. His bill requires ODF to report directly to the Legislature on the program’s progress.
File Photo: Wildfire is stopped by a fuel break, a line of bare ground where fuels have been cleared away.