U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has introduced two bills intended
to mitigate the effects of wildfire smoke. Today, the Smoke-Ready Communities
Act and the Smoke Planning and Research Act received a hearing in front of the Environment and
Public Works committee.

Dr. Cassandra Moseley, a U of O professor in the Institute
for a Sustainable Environment, spoke to the committee, saying “Wildfire smoke
is rapidly increasing public health risk, affecting not only rural communities
that are located near these fires, but increasingly in major urban centers
hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Households and individuals need to be
prepared to act quickly when smoke arrives, and yet many lack the information
about the practical steps they can take to keep themselves safe.”

Moseley identified five ways the bills address public health
risk. Among them were looking into the root causes of wildfires, improving
smoke monitoring and forecasting, and creating clean air shelters.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced last week
that three Oregon fire districts will receive a combined nearly $100,000 in
federal Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG).  

“Every day, firefighters in local fire districts—both union
and volunteer—put their lives on the line to protect our communities in
Oregon,” Wyden said. “Local firefighters have been on the front lines of fire
season this year and every year. They deserve the equipment and training to do
their jobs to the best of their abilities so that our friends, neighbors, and
loved ones can continue to stay safe.”  

“Oregon’s firefighters work tirelessly, risking their lives
to keep our homes and communities safe. It is crucial for local fire districts
to have the resources they need,” Merkley said.  “This funding will ensure
that the dedicated firefighters in Coos Bay, Siletz, and Sheridan are well
equipped and prepared to keep protecting the Oregonians they serve.” 

AFG grants help firefighters and first responders obtain
essential resources to enhance their response capabilities and to more
effectively protect the health and safety of the public and emergency response
personnel from fire and other related hazards. The Oregon communities receiving
these grants are as follows: 

City of Coos Bay – $32,380 

Siletz Rural Fire Protection District – $34,238 

Sheridan Fire District – $35,238 

“Without this support, many communities – including Coos Bay
– would be forced to utilize tools that are obsolete. Coos Bay Fire Department
will replace our outdated Thermal Imaging Cameras (TIC). These TICs allow
firefighters to see through smoke and low light environments to find hot spots
or even victims by using the temperature differences to create a picture,” said
Mark R. Anderson, Fire Chief Coos Bay Fire Department. “The firefighters of
Coos Bay are keenly aware of the value of this tool since it was 20 years ago
(November 25, 2002) that three Coos Bay firefighters were killed in a fire. The
following investigation revealed that having Thermal Imaging Cameras may likely
have prevented this tragedy.  The FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant
program is a vital partnership with our nation’s fire service agencies;
providing the support needed to serve their communities. I would like to thank
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as our other elected officials
that have fought to continue funding this important FEMA grant.”