Oregon Wildfire Recovery Toolkits

Recommendations for State and Community Level Actions


In 2020, wildfires burned an unprecedented 1.2 million acres across Oregon, claiming nine lives and destroying thousands of homes. Within two days, the towns of Gates, Detroit, Idanha, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix, and Talent were substantially destroyed. The historic and catastrophic event left Oregonians short-handed and unprepared for the recovery process.

Today, more than three years since the wildfires sparked, people in many impacted communities have not been able to rebuild lost homes or reopen local businesses in part because of unexpected delays in rebuilding critical water infrastructure.

Drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services are largely inoperable for residents after a disaster for as long as planning and construction of new water infrastructure is underway. Without these essential services, no community can rebuild safely or sustainably. An early focus on bringing water infrastructure back after a catastrophic wildfire can anchor and accelerate recovery, but the process must be much faster than the traditional infrastructure planning process to ensure a reasonable recovery timeline for these communities.

The Oregon Wildfire Recovery Toolkits aim to help fire-affected communities rebuild faster by recommending actions that can expedite the recovery of water infrastructure systems. These documents share learning and recommendations for those working locally and at the state level in fire-impacted counties and cities to implement recovery efforts.

Why Toolkits?

The Wildfire Toolkits are based on Willamette Partnership’s research and interviews with individuals and communities across different scales of wildfire recovery. We researched not only how Oregon currently plans for disaster recovery and its official after-action reports, but also how other states plan for recovery where wildfire is common. We delved into case studies on communities throughout the western United States that have been devastated by wildfire, researching what they did in the aftermath, and how those communities fare today. We then met with folks involved in recovery to learn from perspectives across scales and geographies.

As we researched other wildfire recoveries and held interviews with state agencies and community partners, it became clear that two tiers of action could be taken: action at the community-level and action at the state-level. This led to the creation of two Toolkits – one aimed at each respective audience to explain implementable recommendations to the right people.

While many of the recommendations are broadly applicable, the focus in these Toolkits is on bringing water infrastructure back online faster. Water infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water, carry away waste, and manage rain and snow runoff is necessary for a community to function. In fact, it is a building requirement – you need wastewater treatment, whether on-site or through a community system – before you can receive an occupancy permit to live in your home. 

As seen in the aftermath of 2020, delays compound and communities find themselves years later not even out of the planning stages to bring their water infrastructure back online. These Toolkits are an effort to eliminate some of those delays. And even though many of these recommendations are designed to support natural disaster recovery in the future, we hope our findings and recommendations may be useful to you as your communities rebuild right now. 


Download the Community-Level Toolkit’s Summary.

Download the State-Level Toolkit’s Summary.


Download the Wildfire Toolkit for State-Level Actions


Download the Wildfire Toolkit for Community-Level Actions


We’d like to thank our partners who made these Toolkits possible!

Thank you to all who contributed, we’re interviewed, and reviewed these Toolkits.

  • Business Oregon
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Jackson County
  • Lane County
  • Lincoln County
  • Michael Morter
  • Nonprofit Association of Oregon
  • Oregon Association of Water Utilities
  • Oregon Health Authority
  • Oregon Department of Emergency Management
  • Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development
  • Oregon Environmental Council
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board
  • Rogue Valley Council of Governments
  • Rural Community Assistance Corporation
  • Rural Development Initiatives
  • Stantec Consulting Services, Inc.


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