Oregon Proposes Shifting Wildfire Costs

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Homeowners could pay less to help fight wildfires under a new plan being discussed in Salem.

A new plan by the Oregon legislature wants to move around who pays to fight wildfires in order to keep costs low while fire danger is high. As it stands right now, during wildfire season, landowners pay for the first $10 million of wildfire fighting efforts for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

After that, the state picks up the next $15 million and then a $50 million insurance policy kicks in. ODF says typically, the total cost is less than $20 million, meaning landowners foot the whole bill.

A proposal currently in the Oregon legislature would have the state and landowners evenly pay $20 million for firefighting until insurance kicks in and an extra million dollars would pay for things like helicopters and air tankers to prevent wildfires from spreading.

“The biggest benefit to Southern Oregon is, we’re likely to have a greater number of fire resources to be able to keep fires smaller and even prevent fires,” said Dan Thorpe with Oregon Dept. of Forestry

ODF says Oregon is the only state in the country that has an insurance policy to help pay to fight wildfires. The Oregon Department of Forestry says there are still a lot of things that need to be answered about this plan and there’s going to be discussions about it. The Oregon legislature is planning to take it up during the 2013 session.