Another big fire season


The 2015 fire season was the third “big one” in a row for Oregon forest owners.

According to InciWeb, the interagency information source for large wildfires on federal and state land, there have been 29 such fires this year in Oregon (so far). The two largest fires, the Canyon Creek Complex and Cornet-Windy Ridge, burned more than 100,000 acres. There were also 10 fires that each consumed more than 20,000 acres.

In the Pacific Northwest, a total of 1.6 million acres burned, including 1 million acres in Washington and 600,000 acres in Oregon. Wildfires consumed about 500,000 acres of National Forest land in Oregon and about 100,000 acres on state, private and Bureau of Land Management lands.

In 2015, there were 971 wildfires on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands, slightly less than the 10-year average of 990 fires. However, these fires burned nearly 95,000 acres, which is more than two and a half times the 10-year average of 35,700 acres. The above-average fire size was caused by drought and extreme fire conditions. It was only because of Oregon’s incredible firefighting system that many more acres didn’t burn.

Oregon has a complete and coordinated system to protect state, private and BLM lands. This includes ODF, local forest protective associations and landowners. Firefighting costs are split evenly between the state and the landowners. In many other states, including Washington and California, the entire cost for firefighting is paid by the state.

Because of its cooperative nature, the Oregon firefighting system has strong buy-in from the landowners who help pay for it. Private landowners help with the initial attack of wildfires, are active in fire prevention, and even provide firefighters and equipment to fight large fires. Of the 971 fires on ODF-protected land in 2015, only 43 fires totaling 210 acres were industrial fires that started on active-logging private land. Of the remaining fires, about half were caused by lightning. The other half were human-caused; this includes blazes started by burn barrels, camp fires, sparks from mowers and tossed cigarette butts.

Oregonians should be proud of our firefighters, but we need to stop making work for them. Remember: Smokey’s friends don’t play with matches.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy, Director of Forestry


Photo by Tina O'Donnell, Oregon Department of Forestry 


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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