Oregon State University receives grant to launch collaborative wildfire resilience research

By Rebecca Hansen-White (KLCC)
Dec. 10, 2023 7:53 p.m.
FILE - Damages after the Beachie Creek fire in Elkhorn, Ore., on Feb. 26, 2021. A new research collaboration with Oregon State University, University of Oregon, University of Washington and universities from Australia and the U.K. aims to make communities more resilient against wildfires.

FILE - Damages after the Beachie Creek fire in Elkhorn, Ore., on Feb. 26, 2021. A new research collaboration with Oregon State University, University of Oregon, University of Washington and universities from Australia and the U.K. aims to make communities more resilient against wildfires.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Oregon State University researchers have received $750,000 in grants to study wildfire resilience.

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The funds, from the U.S. Forest Service and the National Science Foundation, will create a new doctoral program and research center.

Erica Fischer of OSU’s College of Engineering will serve as principal investigator on the grant.

She said a team of researchers and a doctoral student will use forestry and civil engineering to understand how wildfire interacts with the built environment, and how to prepare for it.

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“How do we train the next generation of scientists to be able to study this,” she said. “How do we train the next generation of professionals to be able to work in communities and address this really big problem?”

She said the student will be embedded in Ashland, Oregon, a community impacted by the 2020 Almeda wildfire.

Related: 3 years later, wildfire survivors in Southern Oregon are still recovering from trauma

Fischer said the research could also improve preparedness, identifying key points where fire trucks should be stationed, what homes and infrastructure are most at risk, and modeling evacuation routes and economic recovery.

“You get a real life example of what could happen,” she said.

Researchers from University of Oregon, University of Washington, the U.K. and Australia, will also collaborate on the project.

Fischer said an international perspective is important to understanding societal implications as well as how different communities approach risk.

Related: Oregon will rebuild defective modular homes for Almeda Fire survivors

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