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Oregon House Passes Wildfire Protection Bill

The Oregon House has passed a measure that could significantly change the way Oregon pays for the suppression of large wildfires. 

Crews mopping up Incident 94 (file photo).

Crews mopping up Incident 94 (file photo).

R. Barbosa/U.S. Forest Service

Every summer, lightning storms rumble across the state leaving literally hundreds of fires in their wake.  Most of those, you’ll never hear about because firefighters put them out before they get big.  But the few that do get large, get expensive — sometimes a million dollars or more.  Although more rare, these fires account for the bulk of suppression costs. 

This bill provides more money to fight fires while they’re still small, by taking $3 million usually reserved for fighting large fires.  Oregon State Forester Doug Decker says it’s a lot like preventive medicine.

“It makes much more sense to take a lower cost application of effective response instead of waiting for a fire to get larger,” says Decker.

The bill also evenly split the costs of fighting large fires between private forest landowners and the state.  Right now, landowners are on the hook for the first $10 million, after which state funding kicks in.  But Decker says the bill should save the state money over the long haul.

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