Sunday, March 19, 2023

By:  Malik Patterson


CENTRAL POINT — United States Secretary of Interior, Debra Haaland visited Southern Oregon on Sunday to discuss how much money would be allocated to the state for wildland fire defense spending.

“Today I’m excited to announce that we are investing 21 million dollars from that law this year for wildfire risk reduction efforts here right here in Oregon,” said Secretary Haaland.

The 21 million dollars comes from the 1.5 billion dollar Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that President Biden passed on November 15, 2021. According to Secretary Haaland, this will be used on fuel management reduction work on over 170 acres across the state.

“Helping local communities across the country acquire slip-on tank units, expand remote sensing for wildfire detection and recognizing that private landowners also have a role to play in helping reduce the intensity in wildfires,” Secretary Haaland said.

According to Senator Jeff Merkley, a majority of the 21 million dollars have already been allocated to the University of Oregon and other agencies that will have the most impact on fighting fires this summer.

“We have been training the National Guard to support us, we have now invested in cameras to help detect fires more quickly, and focused on resources plus we have the University of Oregon that is working on a wildfire degree program,” Merkley said.

Despite the recent snowpack levels, Mike Shaw, Chief of Fire for the Oregon Department of Forestry, stated that he projects this fire season will still be a challenging one.

“All hands on deck is the approach that we’re taking and all wildland fire agencies are working together,” Shaw said. “The relationships here in Southern Oregon are really strong and we look to continue that very closely so we can be successful moving into the future with the challenges that will befall us with the fire season coming about.”

Firefighters will also see a direct result of the 21 million dollars from year-round work to boot camps designed for women who want to the fire resistance workforce.

“One is to have our firefighters be able to take year-round positions, so when they’re not fighting fires they can take year-round positions so when they’re not fighting fires they can do forest management, less turnover, more of a career,” Merkley said. “This will give them more expertise and we are bringing it to both fronts, fire prevention and fire fighting.”