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Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Bipartisan group of legislators advocate maximum wildfire preparedness

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A group of Oregon lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is encouraging the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make efforts to maximize wildfire preparedness initiatives.

Merkley and DeFazio, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which oversees FEMA, have joined U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Cliff Bentz (R-OR) in forwarding correspondence to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell regarding the matter.

“As you know, Oregon, and the rest of the West, experienced an unprecedented and destructive wildfire season in 2020,” the legislators wrote. “Over 50,000 fires burned 10 million acres, with fires lasting well into the fall. As we approach another potentially catastrophic wildfire season, many Oregonians continue to struggle to return to the pre-disaster state of normal. The approval of the long-awaited cost-share adjustment for the 2020 wildfire season is critical to our recovery efforts, and we thank you for that.”

The lawmakers also asked several questions, including an inquiry regarding steps FEMA has taken as a means of ensuring sufficient commodities in FEMA distribution centers in the event of a major disaster due to wildfire and the agency’s ability to provide a detailed accounting of what is immediately available in FEMA’s nearest distribution centers.

“We appreciate the steps that you have taken to prepare for the 2021 wildfire season,” the legislators concluded. “For example, continuing to allow FEMA’s Regional Administrators to approve requests for Fire Management Assistance Grants (FMAG) will help expedite the flow of resources into the state and ensure that state agencies can quickly respond to fires knowing they have the financial resources to do so.”