Letter: Fires more costly than you know

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“Fire fight costs record $2 billion” touts front page news (“Sept. 15, The Columbian). To the uninitiated, or easily deceived, this is the total cost of our U.S. Forest Service’s 2017 loss to wildfires. That’s not even close. It’s just the cost of fighting the fires; it doesn’t take in the value of the timber. In other disasters, an estimate is placed on total damages, not simply on recovery/mitigation efforts.

When a $1 million home goes up in smoke, does the media emphasize the expense of fighting the fire with no mention of the dollar loss to home and contents? Of course not. When Hurricane Irma’s total damages are added up, they’ll attempt to include all tangible losses, not just the cost of emergency personnel and first responders.

If this headline is designed to be impactful, relevant, and accurately reflect what is going on in the country’s forests vis a vis loss to insects, drought, wildfires, let’s put a value on the trees; it’s not that difficult to come up with a timber volume and valuation.

This story line makes a mole hill out of a mountain. If identifying the problem goes 90 percent toward solving it, we have a long way to go before solving our wildfire problem.