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Audit: Large Wildfire Seasons Take Toll On Oregon's Forestry Department

File photo of the the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire in Northeast Oregon in August 2015.
File photo of the the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire in Northeast Oregon in August 2015.

A series of intense wildfire seasons has taken a toll on the Oregon Department of Forestry. That's according to an audit released Tuesday by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

Three consecutive summers of severe wildfires have stretched the resources of the state's agency dedicated to forest management. The audit found that fighting those fires has caused stress and fatigue for agency employees who spend an increasing amount of time away from home.

The agency is also falling behind on applying for reimbursements for the costs of fighting those fires. That means the state is paying interest on money it's borrowed to finance those costs in the short-term.

The audit also found that the effort and expense of fighting wildfires is eating into the agency's non-fire programs. Auditors recommended the agency analyze its workforce to learn how it can better use its current resources.

In a written response, Oregon's State Forester, Doug Decker, agreed with the audit's conclusions and recommendations.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.