Forest Service says fire costs staggering

Rain & Falling Temperatures Help Texas Douse Wildfires

24 June 2011

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USA — The Bearing Fire, the largest fire in East Texas history, has destroyed an estimated $12.8 million to $18.3 million in timber, according to information released by the Texas Forest Service Thursday. The lost volume is enough to build almost 8,000 two-thousand square foot homes, the release stated.

The area of lost timber is between 21.4 million and 20.6 million cubic feet. The lost volume could have been used to produce lumber, plywood, oriented strand board, and paper and paperboard products worth $243.5 million. This level of forest industry activity could have supported economic activity in East Texas totaling $421.7 million, the information stated.

The effects on local timber markets will be both short and long-term. In the short term, timber prices may drop due to possible salvage resulting in an increase of timber in the market. Significant salvage, however, is unlikely, the release stated.

In the long run, the loss of standing inventory will mean a loss of opportunity cost from the unavailability of timber, according to Todd Nightingale, district forester serving Trinity and Angelina counties. “Those trees damaged by the fire won’t be able to be sold in favorable markets,” Nightingale stated in the release.

All ages of trees have been destroyed by the Bearing Fire, and “each age class of timber has a different value,” Nightingale said.

The fire, consuming areas of Polk and Trinity counties, has burned more than 23,000 acres, as of Wednesday. The largest section of the Bearing Fire is in Trinity County, where the forest industry plays a major economic role: forest industries contributed $48 million of industry output to Trinity economy in 2007 and employ 190 people, the release stated.

Most of the damage has occurred to private property belonging to investment and industrial groups, though parts of the Davy Crockett National Forest have been affected as well.

“A lot of things have been lost,” Nightingale said.

The environmental impact of the fire is also serious. East Texas forests play a major role in atmosphere air quality, providing clean water and preventing soil erosion, not to mention their role as a habitat, the release stated. The fire has the potential to alter the forest’s ability to perform these functions effectively, according to the Texas Forest Service. The release of carbon and gas and particle emissions from the forest could also have an effect on local population’s health. Obviously, the aesthetic value of the forest will be impacted as well, according to the release.

The Bearing Fire is reported to be 80 percent contained in Polk and Trinity counties, where two homes and six trailers have been destroyed. The Power Line Fire in Jasper County has burned 3,500 acres and is 95 percent contained after threatening 500 homes. As of Thursday, 228 of the 254 Texas counties are reporting burn bans, including Angelina.

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