As of Saturday morning, Sept. 12, the state of Oregon has 36 active wildfires with nearly 900,000 acres burned. Counties in Oregon have already stretched their budgets in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are worried about how they will extinguish fires and assist evacuated residents. The federal government has stepped up to help.
According to the Statesman Journal, Oregon’s request for an emergency declaration has been approved, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be reimbursing counties for money spent during what’s been called a “once in a generation” wildfire season.
“We have 220 people in our hotel in Woodburn right now,” Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis told the Statesman Journal. “It costs us a quarter million to run. We just need the federal help to keep supporting this.”
U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have teamed up with Gov. Kate Brown to press President Donald Trump to approved emergency funds for Oregon. Trump called Brown’s office to promise his support. FEMA funds will be available at 75% for the costs of firefighting and the care of displaced people.
U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader advised counties to “make sure that you account for absolutely everything so that we can maximize the aid we can get you so you can truly get reimbursed for all of the up-front costs.”
Wyden, Merkley and Schrader toured the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, where they saw hundreds of people and animals who had evacuated their homes. There are more than 1,000 animals at the fairgrounds – not only pets like dogs and cats, but livestock like horses and pigs.
“I think the president’s emergency step is a good start,” Wyden said. “It makes it clear that people are going to get individual assistance associated with them being safe.”