While some wildfire is natural, the disastrous megafires we’ve witnessed throughout the West in recent years are not. Oregon’s federal forests are particularly susceptible. Climate change coupled with inactive management on over-stocked federal forests continue to threaten lives, livelihoods, communities, and habitat on a massive scale year after year. Wildfire is less common in Oregon’s “wet side” forests but it’s not unheard of. A series of fires that took place between 1933-1951 in the Oregon coast range burned a combined total of 355,000 acres. These burned over acres were harvested and replanted by locals over the next decade and would eventually become part of the Tillamook State Forest we cherish today. As recently as September 2020, the “Labor Day Fires” burned more than 1 million acres in just a few days. During this period, the Echo Mountain Complex fire burned 2,500-acres and destroyed about half of the town of Otis, just outside of Lincoln City.
Foresters, loggers, and road building crews are often on the front line when fire strikes. During the Labor Day fires, local forest sector workers toiled side by side state forest managers and professional firefighters to contain the blaze and protect the forest and surrounding communities. Local farmers and forestland owners support these efforts with water trucks and other important equipment.
The men and women who grow, harvest, and transport wood from state forests also serve as an early response network. All forest workers are trained in fire response and carry firefighting equipment in their vehicles. Working day after day in the woods, they also keep an eye on things and can report fires early to aid in containment.