oregon wildfires

Don Ryan / Associated Press

Wildfires are largely out across the Pacific Northwest, but the economic fallout continues in many communities.

Wildfires closed highways and tourist attractions this summer and fall in places like the Columbia River Gorge and the southern Oregon coast. In Ashland, Oregon Shakespeare Festival director Cynthia Rider said wildfire smoke forced the cancellation of nine outdoor performances. Rider said it’s the fourth year of the past five where that’s been necessary, and she’s worried about the long-term impact to the area’s reputation.

This year’s intense wildfire season in Oregon has re-ignited a long-simmering debate at the state Capitol: How to manage forests in a way that doesn’t lead to infernos.

But the politics of wildfires are complicated.

Eagle Creek Fire Jumps Columbia River Gorge Overnight

Sep 5, 2017
U.S. Forest Service

UPDATED (10:55 a.m. PST): The Eagle Creek Fire jumped the Columbia River Gorge overnight, sparking a smaller fire on the Washington side of the river Tuesday morning according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

Ian McCluskey / Oregon Public Broadcasting

A Portland woman says the young hikers suspected of starting a fire now consuming the Columbia River Gorge giggled as one threw a firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon.

Oregon Town Under Pre-Evacuation Notice As Fire Conditions Worsen

Aug 25, 2017
U.S. Forest Service

The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the Chetco Bar Fire area in Southwest Oregon.  

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is sending aid to help fight a 34,000-acre wildfire on the Warm Springs Reservation in central Oregon.

Canyon Creek One Of Worst Fires On Record In Oregon

Sep 9, 2015
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Creative Commons

Wildfire season is not yet over in the Northwest. But Oregon officials say that this year is already one of the worst on record in terms of the number of homes consumed by fires.

The Canyon Creek Complex alone destroyed 43 homes and damaged at least 50 other structures.

"It's the most homes and structures that we've lost in a conflagration since our records go back to 1996," said Rich Hoover, who is with the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal.

"Canyon Creek has really been kind of historical in that aspect," he said.

This has been one of the worst — and most expensive — wildfire seasons ever in the Northwest, where climate change and a history of suppressing wildfires have created a dangerous buildup of fuels.

With fires burning hotter and more intense, there are renewed calls to change how the federal government pays to fight the biggest fires.

"These large and intense fires are a natural disaster in much the same way a hurricane or a tornado or a flood is," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says. "And they ought to be funded as such through the emergency funding of FEMA."

As firefighters work to contain the Canyon Creek Complex wildfire, high winds and hot temperatures mean the fire keeps growing.

Four hundred guests at the Ka-Nee-Tah resort on the Warm Springs Reservation have evacuated due to an advancing wildfire.

Oregon Department of Transportation / Flickr

Northwest forests are extremely dry, but this fire season so far hasn't been as bad as last year. Spokesman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, Tom Knappenberger, says there were 79 large fires at this point a year ago. This season, there have been 65 fires of at least 100 acres.

The Corner Creek Fire has burned 26,000 acres south of Dayville, Oregon.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency Friday.

As Northwest states brace for what's expected to be a challenging summer for fighting wildfires, Oregon has decided to renew its wildfire insurance policy.

The National Guard / Flickr

More than fifty fires continue to burn in the West. Efforts this summer to change how the federal government pays for fire suppression hasn't moved forward. And that has one Oregon lawmaker speaking out.