The Economic Impacts of Large Wildfires

University of Oregon, Ecosystem Workforce Program

December 16, 2012
Access the report

This project, led by University of Oregon, examined the local economic impacts of large wildland fires in the western U.S.

Main Findings:
  • Generally, local employment and wages in a county increase during large wildfires; labor market disruptions from large wildfires are outweighed by the employment that the suppression effort creates in the short term.
  • Large wildfires lead to instability in local labor markets by amplifying seasonal variation in employment over the subsequent year.
  • Local capture of suppression spending is important because it helps mediate labor market impacts. For every $1 million spent in the county, local employment increased 1 percent during the quarter of the fire.
  • On average, the Forest Service spent 9 percent of wildfire suppression funding in the county where the fires occurred. Amounts of local spending varied from zero to 39 percent.
  • Contracts for suppression and support services are a central avenue for local capture. However, local business capacity appears to limit the ability of rural and resource-dependent counties to capture suppression contracts.
  • Counties with more federal vendors prior to a fire tend to capture more contract spending locally during a fire.
  • Capture of fire suppression contracts is concentrated in a few areas in the west.