BEND, OR -- With 33 large fires burning in Oregon right now, the cost of suppression keeps going up.
Northwest interagency Coordination Center's Robin DeMario says each fire is different, depending on the topography, severity, and suppression efforts, but the price tag, so far, is over twice as high as last year's. "To date, for the fires that are burning in the State of Oregon, and these are the large fires, not the little small ones, but the large fires that we estimate the cost of suppressing these fires is $214 Million and the total of acres that have been affected by fires in Oregon, it is 431,879."
Our 33 large fires, defined as affecting over 100 acres of timber or 300+ acres of grass, are burning right now, and DeMario says year-to-year can't really be compared, and it's impossible to determine what each of the over 431,000 acres currently ablaze has cost so far. "A fire, say in the wilderness area, where there are no threats to structures or other established resources or communities, we wouldn't be flying those resources on that, whereas we would if it was threatening a community and other infrastructure."
DeMario says that as these fires grow and the smoke thickens, visibility lessens, which means it's that much more difficult to engage in suppression efforts and that Oregon has burned over twice as many acres as last year, putting us on course to catch up with 2015. "Last year was a slow year, but if you go back to 2015, Oregon's total acres burned was 604,000." To put the differences in the years in perspective, DeMario clarified, "In Oregon, last year, there was approximately 190,000 acres burned. The ChetCo Bar fire is estimated at 176,000 acres."
DeMario says while the weather plays the biggest role in the number of fires set every year, with conditions as dry as we've seen this summer, humans need to be vigilant about caring for the forest.