Oregon’s Wildfire Recovery Begins

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After devastating wildfires, Oregonians come together in the long road ahead toward recovery and rebuilding.

STATEWIDE – Although firefighting crews have made major progress, there are still six large fires actively burning across Oregon. As of Friday, October 2nd, about 1 million acres have burned, with 4,527 structures destroyed, the Office of Oregon Emergency Management reported. Also, 47 miles of highways remain completely closed, down from a peak of 244 miles, as of Wednesday, September 30th, said the Oregon Department of Transportation. ODOT crews continue to make progress clearing and repairing damaged areas, but there is a lot of work to do before Oregon roads are fully reopened and the state is on the road to wildfire recovery.

Governor Brown surveys the damage from Almeda Fire in Southern Oregon

Cleanup crews will shortly start reentering areas affected by the wildfires to begin removing debris and hazardous materials from properties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized plans to remove and dispose of hazardous materials from burned properties—free of charge to property owners. Removal of household hazardous waste and fire debris is required before property owners can rebuild from the fires. Next steps for people whose homes or businesses burned can be found at: wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup.

During Governor Kate Brown’s visits to the frontlines of fires in Clackamas County, Southern Oregon, and the Santiam Canyon, she met with local officials, firefighters, evacuees, and families. The Governor surveyed the devastation and vowed to get every resource available to rebuild. 

“As I continue to visit communities around the state that have been hard hit by these wildfires, my commitment strengthens—to secure the resources necessary to help rebuild an even stronger Oregon,” said Governor Brown.

Gov. Kate Brown meets with FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor

On September 29th, the Governor announced she would be convening a Wildfire Economic Recovery Council to evaluate the short- and long-term economic and community needs of Oregonians statewide. The council will focus on solutions that account for the disproportionate impact the 2020 wildfires have had on communities of color, rural, and low-income Oregonians.

“So many Oregonians lost everything in these fires. With over a million acres burned and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, the impacts of this wildfire season will be felt on jobs and local economies long after it ends,” said Governor Brown. “While my Disaster Cabinet continues to focus on the immediate wildfire response and relief efforts, this council will prioritize economic recovery for impacted communities.”

In addition to state and federal relief efforts, the Governor tasked the Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Oregon Community Foundation with building and managing the 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund. The three foundations pooled their resources to start the fund with $3 million. Within the first two weeks of the fund’s existence, the recovery fund had reached over $5 million, according to the Oregon Community Foundation.

If you would like to make a donation, go to Support Oregon Wildfire Relief and Recovery.

Red Cross volunteers. Photo courtesy of the Red Cross Cascades’ Twitter

Oregonians never fail to come together in times of crisis. From neighbors helping neighbors clear out debris to strangers donating money to wildfire recovery efforts, Oregonians have stepped up to the challenge of rebuilding what was lost in the devastation. To read more about some of the amazing heroes who worked tirelessly to help their communities during the fires, check out this article: In Wildfire Crisis, Heroes Shine. Although the road to recovery may seem long, it is the unnamed Red Cross volunteers and the selfless firefighters and National Guard members who give us hope and allow us to see through the smoke towards a stronger, more resilient Oregon. 

If you or someone you know has been affected by the wildfires, you can register for disaster relief assistance through FEMA. For more information on how to apply for FEMA assistance, go to Oregonians Affected by Wildfires: Apply for FEMA Assistance

About Author

Sarah Dean is Willamette University student and a fellow with the Governor's Communications team.

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