Home Back Issues October 2010 Short summer douses wildfire industry

Short summer douses wildfire industry

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Oregon wildfire
Fires generally rage in Central Oregon in the summer. This year's cooler weather was good news for many, but not for the firefighting business. // PHOTO COURTESY OF PATRICK ENVIRONMENTAL
The shortest summer in recent memory has left once-mighty private wildfire fighting companies struggling to survive amid massive layoffs.

Rick Dice, the president of PatRick Environmental and president of the board of the National Wildfire Suppression Association, has been in the fire suppression business since 1971, and he counts 2010 among the slowest fire years ever. Dice says most companies saw revenues plunge by more than half this year as federal and state agencies spent about $50 million less on fighting fires in Oregon than in a typical year. Many of those businesses will have a hard time staying in operation, he predicts.

“Businesses are going to suffer big time,” says Dice. “They’re going to have to do a lot of layoffs if they want to survive.”

Dice says he plans to lay off as many as 250 people, the first time he’s had to cut jobs in 20 years. The 2010 season came to a grinding halt for his company in early September, when early rains doused Oregon weeks earlier than usual. “A lot of times our season doesn’t end until Oct. 15 and it starts up in June or even May,” he says. “This year it didn’t start until August and it only lasted two weeks.”

The abrupt end of summer served as the latest dampener for an industry that grew from 62 20-man crews in 1994 to 175 in 2008, with about 4,000 seasonal employees. About two-thirds of the industry is based in Oregon, which led the trend toward privatization by shifting to on-call contract crews in the 1980s. But a less aggressive approach to firefighting on federal lands has cut into revenues, and competition has become fierce.

The lack of fire throughout the West also took its toll on Oregon aviation companies that attack wildfires from above, such as Columbia Helicopters, Evergreen Aviation and Erickson Air-Crane. Even when a serious wildfire broke out in early September in Colorado, Oregon air and ground crews were not called to the scene because plenty of local aircraft and crews were available nearby.
BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

Eking out a living

News
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
04.08.14 thumb ourtable-coopfarmsBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

It may be obvious, but most farmers don’t make a lot of money. According to preliminary data from the 2012 Agriculture Census, 52% of America’s 2.1 million principal farm-operators don’t call farming their primary occupation. Farm cooperatives may offer a solution.


Read more...

On fire

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

A self-proclaimed “chile head,” John Ford “grows, eats and does everything spicy.” 


Read more...

The more they change, the more they stay the same

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
100-best-collageBY BRANDON SAWYER

The 100 Best Companies get more creative with perks and more generous with benefits; employees seek empowering relations with management and coworkers.


Read more...

Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

News
Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MillennialsThumbA new report explores the impact of millennials on Oregon's business and political climate.


Read more...

The solution to youth unemployment

News
Thursday, February 27, 2014
02.27.14 Thumbnail TeenworkBY ERIC FRUITS

Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.


Read more...

Buy the book

News
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
2 03.25.14 thumb bookshopBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Oregon is home not only to many fine writers but also several accomplished small publishers.


Read more...

Green eyeshades in the ivory tower

News
Friday, April 04, 2014
EducationCosts BlogBY ERIC FRUITS

The rapidly rising cost of higher education has left even the smartest researchers and the wonkiest of wonks wondering what’s happening and where’s all that money going. More and more, prospective students—and their families—are asking: Is college worth the cost?


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS