Impact of Oregon Fires


A firefighter stands in the glow of the 2016 Highway 138 West Fire. Photo courtesy of Kyle Reed of the Oregon Fire Marshalls Office.

Riley Stever, Staff Writer

Over the last 20 years, hundreds of wildfires have severely impacted the Oregon community and wildlife. The effect of fires has increased greatly as housing moves into more forested and rural areas.

While the number of wildfires in recent years has not increased, the number of acres burned and people impacted has.

“We have seen the devastating effect across the state in recent years, over the last 10, 15, 20 years not only here in Oregon but throughout a lot of the west. Homes, communities have been lost to fire,” Fire Risk Reduction Specialist Kyle Reed said.

In the past, fire management was different. Most native tribes had developed ways of fighting and preventing wildfires. They would fight fire with fire, so they could burn off all of the fuels that would endanger their crops during the summer seasons.

The U.S. government taking away their right to continue these practices could have contributed to a rise in acres burned. After years of seeing the impact of these changes, some tribes have slowly been given permission to return to their old practices which will create more defensible space.

Defensible space is necessary because most fires aren’t caused by humans. They’re caused by nature. Rising temperatures and lack of rain have made forests drier which makes it very easy for fires to burn.

“In our driest fire seasons we have trouble preventing fires because of natural things like lightning that we can not prevent,” said Reed. Even though we can not stop lightning, there are many ways to control what it burns.

Defensible space is very important. You must make a 30 foot perimeter of cleared out space around your home with no trees, brush, etc.. Also, keeping your gutters cleaned and lawns mowed is important.

Another very critical thing you can do to control what is burned by natural fires is following fire restrictions. If they say do not use your lawn mower, do not use it.

Finally, getting more people to become wildland firefighters is a third way to decrease damage. More boots on the ground means that fires can be put out more quickly.

Even the slightest change in wildfires per year, can have a great impact on the number of acres burned. It is crucial that we all do our part to prevent forest fires.

“It is important to do whatever we can to prevent wildfires,” Reed said. We all suffer from the effects of wildfires. It is a real problem, and we all need to take account of it

Remember the words of Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Smokey the Bear reminds fair goers to prevent wildfires.