Northwest wildfires not all bad for local economies

Sep 17, 2012
Originally published on September 14, 2012 4:45 pm

Crews continue to make progress on several wildfires in central Washington. State health officials say the air is smoky enough around Wenatchee to be unhealthy for people with sensitive respiratory systems.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Oregon have been looking into the economic impact of large wildfires. Their findings indicated that there can actually be an upside to local economies.

Cassandra Moseley directs the U of O's Institute for a Sustainable Environment. She and her team studied what happened after a series of fires in northern California in 2008.

She says the influx of firefighters and support services produced a short term economic boost.

“I think what we’re trying do here is to say that there’s a much more complex story about the social and particularly the economic impacts of a fire. It’s not all bad.”

Moseley says the short term firefighting response around a wildfire can offset economic damage to tourism and natural resources. But in the long term, she says these communities experienced more economic instability in the year that followed a big blaze.

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