▶️ Wildfire response council releases report; extended fire seasons to cost tens of billions

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

The fire season in Oregon has jumped from just 23 days back in the 1970s – to nearly 4 months in the 2000s, according to the Oregon Climate Research Institute.

And governor Kate Brown says if we don’t do something to address the climate crisis in the country, Oregon will the pay a hefty price with a fire season that never ends.

“How we attack and tackle fire needs to be different,” Brown said in January when convening the Council on Wildfire Response. 

The council’s main purpose was to evaluate national and global fire prevention practices, management and suppression and make recommendations to Oregon’s wildfire management.

Tuesday, the council released its final report.

“We knew we needed to work on mitigation, reducing wildfires,” said Bend Mayor Sally Russell, one of the 37 members appointed to the council earlier this year. “This report looks at our state as a whole and from a very balanced, centrist approach it lays out solution sets to make our state and our communities more resilient and adaptive. It puts dollar amounts.”

The dollar amounts are staggering.

In 2018, combined state and federal costs for direct wildfire suppression alone totaled about 533 million dollars in Oregon.

The council’s report predicts that the cost of extended wildfire seasons will exceed tens of billions of dollars over the next 20 years.

Russell says, those billions of dollars will be preventative.

“It’s really billions of dollars to invest in protecting our communities,” Russell said. “A lot of it is upfront work, some of it is stopping wildfires before they get going and having the resources and the plan to do that and do that well.”

The council is calling on federal, state and local governments and the private sector to invest in strategies to reduce wildfire risk and protect communities from the impacts of wildfire.

“People recognizing the breadth, the depth and the value of implementing all the carefully researched suggestions and recommendations that are in this report are really important not to just to Central Oregon, but the whole state,” Russell said. “We gotta do this work, and we gotta start now.”

The Council’s report recommends spending 145 million dollars over the next two years for wildfire response efforts – including modernizing the state’s firefighting services.

Many of those services were cut during the global financial crisis 11 years ago and never restored.

You can read the full report here.

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