Sisters is on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, and is nearly completely surrounded by Deschutes National Forest. It is the fastest growing city in Oregon, and residential and commercial development is pressing up against the neighboring forest lands. Wildfire seasons have been increasing in length and the threat of ignition from embers is increasing. Smoke and evacuations have increasingly disturbed the local economy and quality of life.
The CPAW team worked with the City of Sisters and their partners in 2018 to explore land use planning tools to reduce risk. CPAW’s recommendations for Sisters include developing a new map of the wildland-urban interface and adopting the Advanced Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer tool for wildfire risk data. CPAW also recommended conducting parcel-level assessments for the home ignition zone to help understand wildfire risk at a more detailed scale.
CPAW’s findings also propose updating defensible space requirements and adopting new state building code requirements, which were approved by the Oregon Building Code Council in January 2019. When Sisters updates its Comprehensive Plan in 2019, CPAW suggests using the opportunity to integrate land use decisions with wildfire mitigation activities.
Finally, CPAW recommended that Sisters conduct a comprehensive inventory of relative wildfire risk to critical infrastructure such as water supplies, utilities, and public buildings. Sisters can then prioritize and implement mitigation measures, including structural improvements and management of defensible space.