Requiring that new homes are built out of fire-resistant materials can be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of wildfire.
Deschutes County is considering such a regulation. But Gov. Kate Brown did not include that concept in a package of legislation designed to address statewide wildfire risk. Another bill that died earlier this year, Senate Bill 1536, had included it.
After the wildfires in Oregon this year, is it time to scale back?
The Oregonian pointed out: “Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, who chaired the legislature’s committee on Wildfire Reduction and Recovery, called the governor’s concept ‘Senate Bill 1536-light,’”
If you are like us, you have what is perhaps a Hollywood concept of how wildfires destroy homes — a wall of flames marching across a landscape. That can happen.
Embers carried by the wind are also a cause. That’s why Oregon already has voluntary requirements now for things such as fire-resistant roofs and attic ventilation covered with mesh. That way, if an ember lands on a home it’s less likely to start a fire.
Of course, new regulations mean new costs for homebuilders and potential homeowners. It’s hard to know how much such regulations would increase the cost of a home. But it would, almost assuredly. And making new homes more expensive in a housing crisis is not greeted with unanimous enthusiasm.
Then there’s the question of where the regulations should apply. Every new home in Oregon? Not every part of the state is as at risk as those in, say, Central Oregon.
So as much sense as fire-resistant materials might make, removing that requirement might enable the other parts of the bill to pass more smoothly through the Legislature. And Oregon does need more community wildfire preparedness, increased firefighting capacity, and thinning projects, which are also part of the bill.