PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Even wildfires are political. Like many issues in this country, politics come in to play in how people view the causes of wildfires — climate change or forest management practices.
“Well, this is a rare case when everyone is right,” said James Johnston, an Oregon State University professor who has studied forest fires over decades.
“As a society we’ve made every wrong choice. When it comes to dry forests in the American West, we made a choice to log most of the old fire resistant trees. We made a choice to exclude fire from forests that need fire to thrive,” he told KOIN 6 News. “We made a choice to warm the atmosphere by several degrees, and we made a choice not to thin stands and re-introduced fire under the right conditions. The bill for those decisions has come due.”
In the midst of warming temperatures, the head of the Oregon Department of Forestry said 2 goals have been added nationally to traditional firefighting efforts. They include using fire resistant landscapes and thinning vegetation around cities and towns while also thinning forests.
Thinning done in areas near the Bootleg Fire using mechanical equipment and prescribed burns helped slow down the flames.
“Fire is a natural part of our environment and being able to put prescribed fire into the spring and fall where it’s safe, reducing that fuel condition, we’re really working to do that across all Western states,” said ODF Chief Doug Grafe.
The Oregon legislature just approved $190 million to work on plans to lower wildfires. But Gov. Kate Brown said she knows that is not enough and is hoping for help from the Biden Administration.