After a mild wildfire season in 2016 – but following back-to-back record seasons the previous two years – Oregon’s luck ran out. Despite fire suppression systems regarded as best-in-class for private and public lands, lightning and human-caused wildfires ravaged the state’s forests and rangelands, making 2017 one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.
While news headlines were quick to capture the “cost” of firefighting, suppression represents only a fraction of the true cost of wildfire. There are huge impacts to air quality and health, school athletics, travel and tourism, employment and the economy, transportation, and iconic Oregon economic sectors such as the state’s wine and timber industries.
Questions loom: Is this the new normal? What economic and human effects did Oregon experience in 2017, and what similar impacts will wildfires have going forward?