Adapting to the Era of Megafires

A Community & Expert Summit on Catastrophic Wildfire in Oregon and Beyond

Wildfire ravaged much of the western United States in 2020.

Towns were destroyed, homes and businesses evacuated, forests incinerated, and lives lost. Vast swaths of rural communities like Talent and Detroit were devastated by sweeping megafires.

Across the state, Oregonians were impacted by widespread evacuations, life-threatening smoke, damage to vineyards and other crops, and staggering costs siphoning critical tax dollars away from other essential public services. The greatest impacts were born our most vulnerable communities: low-income families, communities of color, the sick, the elderly, and the young.   

These megafires also accelerated their climate effects, with carbon emissions from wildfires in the U.S. alone increasing 30% over the previous year.

The 2020 season was a record-breaking year in the West, continuing a 20-year trend that is only worsening.

But there is hope.

As wildfire impacts broaden, so has the coalition of parties seeking solutions. Small town mayors and tribal leaders, experts in public health and social justice, CEOs and scientists are speaking up.

In early 2021, World Forestry Center brought together representatives from this broadening coalition in a five-week virtual summit on catastrophic wildfire.

Matt Donegan, chair of the Oregon Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response, was joined by community leaders Charles Wilhoite and Katrina Holland, to lead this series of virtual talks.

Matt Donegan (Chair, Oregon Governor’s Wildfire Council)
Katrina Holland
(Executive Director, JOIN)
Charles Wilhoite (Board Member, NW Natural)

The series outlined the full impacts of megafires on our state and our region; discussed real solutions shaped by decades of experience across the globe; and addressed the barriers to achieving these solutions. 

This free public series, now available online, is for anyone who cares about the health of our society, our environment, or our economy. Catastrophic wildfire impacts us all. But together we can end the era of megafires.

The Facts About Wildfire

Wildfires are a natural part of the ecology of forests. Severe megafires are not.


Episode 1: Understanding the Era of Megafires and the Threat Ahead

Dr. Paul Hessburg
(US Forest Service)
Russ Hoeflich
(1,000 Friends of Oregon)

Dr. Werner Kurz
(Canadian Forest Service)

Episode 2: Protecting People: Creating Fire-Adapted Communities

Mayor Sally Russell
(City of Bend)
Oregon Rep. Pam Marsh
Oregon Sen. Lynn Findley
Commissioner Mark Bennett
(Baker County, Oregon)

Episode 3: Protecting Forests: Building Resilient Landscapes

Dr. Chris Dunn
(Oregon State University)
Susan Jane Brown
(Western Environmental Law Center)
Nils Christoffersen
(Wallowa Resources)
Bobby Brunoe
(Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs)

Episode 4: Protecting Firefighters: Responding Safely and Effectively to Wildfire

Mariana Ruiz-Temple
(Oregon State Fire Marshal)
Travis Medema
(Oregon State Fire Marshal)
Doug Grafe
(Oregon Department of Forestry)
Oregon Rep. Lily Morgan
(R-Grants Pass)

Episode 5 Part 1: Building a Movement and Implementing Solutions

Tuesday, May 11 at 10 am
Dean Takahashi
(Yale Carbon Containment Lab)
Dan Porter
(The Nature Conservancy)
Nils Christoffersen
(Wallowa Resources)
Joe Whitworth
(The Freshwater Trust)

Episode 5 Part 2: Building a Movement and Implementing Solutions

Wednesday, May 12 at 10 am
Governor Kate Brown
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
Oregon Sen. Lew Frederick

The event series is supported by the estate of William D. Hagenstein. Learn more about the legacy of Bill Hagenstein and World Forestry Center.

Large group of people listen to Governor Brown speak

Council on Wildfire Response

Adapting to the Era of Megafires was created to amplify the work of the Oregon Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response. In 2019, the Council reviewed Oregon’s wildfire prevention, preparedness and response and made 37 recommendations.