Oregon Delegation Pushes for Rapid Disaster Relief for Wildfires

Oregon Delegation Pushes for Rapid Disaster Relief for Wildfires

In a bipartisan, bicameral effort, the congressional delegation is urging expedited approval of the governor’s disaster relief requests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader, and Suzanne Bonamici, are requesting rapid approval of Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s request for federal disaster relief, as unprecedented wildfires ravage the state.

“We strongly support Governor Brown’s request for an Emergency declaration on September 9, 2020, for the State of Oregon, in response to the devastating wildfires burning in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Tillamook and Washington counties, which are also significantly impacting the lands and resources of several federally recognized tribes,” the delegation wrote. “Given the severity and speed in which these fires are spreading across the state, we urge you to expedite the declaration process to ensure that local communities have the resources they need to respond to and recover quickly from these devastating wildfires.”

Oregon is facing its worst drought in nearly 30 years, which has resulted in some of the driest forest and brush conditions on record. This week, an unprecedented windstorm—with winds upward of 50 mph and gusts of 60 mph—exploded existing fires and caught many communities by surprise. Tens of thousands of Oregonians across the state have now been forced to flee from their communities.

As the state shifts resources from saving life and property from flames to assessing wildfire damage, the governor’s office will request disaster relief from the federal government. Expedited approval will rapidly deliver millions of dollars of critically needed aid to devastated communities.

“The number and scale of fires burning on Oregon’s landscape at the moment are unprecedented,” the delegation wrote, “and urgent action is necessary.”

Find the full letter here and below.

Dear Mr. President:

We strongly support Governor Brown’s request for an Emergency declaration on September 9, 2020, for the State of Oregon, in response to the devastating wildfires burning in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Tillamook and Washington counties, which are also significantly impacting the lands and resources of several federally recognized tribes. Given the severity and speed in which these fires are spreading across the state, we urge you to expedite the declaration process to ensure that local communities have the resources they need to respond to and recover quickly from these devastating wildfires.

Oregon is facing its worst drought in nearly 30 years, which has resulted in some of the driest forest conditions on record. On the afternoon of September 7, 2020, a windstorm, with winds up to 50 mph and gusts of 60 mph, moved into the region from the east. These winds, mixed with dry fuel loads, exploded existing fires and caught many communities by surprise. Thousands of Oregonians were forced to flee from their communities in the early morning hours of September 8, and it is unclear when they will be able to return home.

In addition, strong winds have downed power lines, starting new fires that have quickly spread and, tragically, have already destroyed homes and businesses. Over the past several days, the state has been focusing its resources on saving lives and protecting property. Fortunately, recent changes in weather patterns have allowed the state to finally shift its focus from defending life and property, to taking the offensive and working to contain the fires. 

The number and scale of fires burning on Oregon’s landscape at the moment are unprecedented, and urgent action is necessary. We thank you in advance for your expedited review of Governor Brown’s Emergency disaster declaration request.