Wildfires Hit East Texas Economy Hard
The Texas Forest Service says the ongoing east Texas wildfires are not just burning a lot of trees and some houses. They’re also burning up a lot of money and jobs.
Foresters and environmentalists are always quick to tell us a wildfire doesn’t “destroy” a forest. It only “changes” it, and the forest will grow back thicker and greener than before, in 20 or 30 years.
That’s all well and good, but not if you’re one of the many thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the forest products industry. The timber industry supports the entire economy of east Texas in one way or another, directly and indirectly. That’s why the current wildfires are causing so much concern and alarm.
The Texas Forest Service says the so-called Bearing Fire, the largest in East Texas history, has, so far, burned more than 25,000 acres of forest, which will grow back, but it’s destroyed between 13 and 18 million dollars worth of valuable timber that cannot be replaced.
That much timber can produce enough lumber and building materials to build almost 8,000 homes, and generate thousands of jobs that pump nearly half a billion dollars into the regional economy.
That’s gone now. It’s what this one fire has cost this one corner of east Texas. Add lost profits and income from all the other fires up and down the road, and you have an economic disaster that will affect the people of east Texas for years to come.
With help from this week’s rain, the Bearing Fire in Polk and Trinity Counties is 80 percent contained. The Power Line Fire in Jasper County has burned 3,500 acres and is 95 percent contained.
As of Thursday, 228 of the 254 Texas counties, including Angelina, have banned all outdoor burning. Many Fourth of July Fireworks displays have been cancelled, and many cities and counties have banned the sale and possession of fireworks.