Climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels around the globe, is also fueling the rising risks for large fire events in Oregon and across the West, scientists say, which means the likelihood of future losses to the timber industry. Ms. Halofsky is part of a team of researchers attempting to find changes in forest management, like what to replant and when, that might help improve the health of forests to shield them against rising fire risks.
Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, has criticized Republicans like Mr. Girod who staged a walkout to block a state climate bill. Mr. Girod, the state senator from Mill City, bristled at the criticism as he rode in a car with Roger Nyquist, a Republican county commissioner in the region, after looking through what remained of his house and the truck he lost to the fire.
Carbon emissions “could have a drying effect” that could raise future risks of fires, Mr. Girod said, but he rejected the idea that such emissions were responsible for the deadly conflagrations now enveloping the West Coast. “To blame them for what’s happening here is just wrong.”
Mr. Nyquist said that the combination of burned homes and trees would hurt the economy in Linn County, where he is a commissioner, but that the precise impacts were hard to predict. “We have a housing shortage, timber’s at a record price, and a bunch of people just lost their homes and land,” he said. “So it’s hard to make sense of.”
Lesser fires in 2017 cost the state’s tourism industry an estimated $51 million. Experts are bracing for much more from these fires, which could close some trails and campgrounds for years. “People are literally taking their R.V.s and dollars and leaving the state because it’s not fun right now,” said Lee Davis, who runs the Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative at Oregon State University.s
On the way down from Mill City, Mr. Nyquist drove past the Fisherman’s Bend Campground, a once-shaded campground on the North Santiam. Its trees were burned black and bare by the fires. Ash coated the road.