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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

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

oregon_wildfire_2015.jpg
Inciweb
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.