Fir Trees Die in Record Numbers
According to unpublished research by the U.S. Forest Service reported by Columbia Insight, fir trees in Oregon and Washington died in record-breaking numbers in 2022. Labeled “Firmageddon” by researchers, the event involved more than 1.23 million acres across the two states, with Oregon being hardest hit. In some areas, an estimated 50 percent or more of fir trees died.
Surveys of more than 69 million forest acres (over 100,000 square miles) in Oregon, Washington, and small sections of California and Idaho were conducted using a combination of fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones and satellite imagery.
Although fir die-offs have been recorded as far back as 1952, when surveys began, Firmageddon dwarfs all previous accounts. The causes are believed to be drought compounded by insects and fungal diseases working together to weaken and kill trees. Extreme heat, including a record-breaking heat dome, is also being investigated as a possible factor. The dead fir trees pose a major fire risk, especially during the next two years while the trees hold onto their dried-out needles.