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The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has protection responsibilities for private and non-federal public forestlands lands in Oregon. Most private forestland owners see their holdings as an investment or as providing other benefits that would be lost of their land burned. For that reason, ODF’s approach to wildfire is to minimize damage to the lands we protect at the lowest cost within the context of providing for firefighter and public safety.
Federal land management agencies such as the Forest Service and BLM have a broader range of choices; from full, aggressive suppression to allowing a fire to burn for to provide resource benefits and/or to minimize suppression costs.
Tension between these two policies arise mainly when a fire is burning on, or threatening multiple (i.e., state & federal) jurisdictions or is threatening to do so. A decision to implement less than full suppression tactics can become a transfer of risk from one party to another.
ODF recognizes and accepts the role of fire in forest ecosystems. There is a need to re-introduce fire especially in our fire-dependent forests. However, there is a right time and right place to do that. Allowing a fire to burn uncontrolled, in the middle of August, in almost any location is not appropriate, because despite all the fancy modeling, the unexpected does happen on a regular basis. Instead, federal agencies be given funding to expand their use of prescribed fires so they can decide where and when to burn an area.
Some will argue that we should not suppress fires because it is too dangerous for the firefighters. Wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous business. Suppressing a fire while it is still small is much safer than a larger fire. A smaller fire requires fewer resources (people) and thus less exposure to injury than a large fire. A few individuals can suppress a small fire while a larger fire may require hundreds or thousands of people to suppress. Most firefighter injuries/fatalities are not the result of burnovers. The leading cause of injury or fatality is traveling to or from the fire followed by heart attacks and aviation accidents.
Manager, Central Oregon Forest Protection District, ODF
posted 2 years, 8 months ago
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