Senators Wyden and Merkley meet with evacuees on rebuilding

LANE COUNTY, Ore. — As of Saturday, all evacuations have been lifted for the Holiday farm Fire and the fire is 45% contained.

Now, it’s time to look towards long term recovery. That’s why Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were in Eugene, meeting with survivors of the Holiday Farm Fire.

They spoke with evacuees at the Lane Events Center. Many say they’ve lost everything in the fire.

“The house is nothing but ashes, and the steel building, the big steel beams is just twisted and warped, it’s unbelievable,” said John Benefiel, a Vida resident who lost his home to the fire.

The senators heard from evacuees like Benefiel about what isn’t working, including the emergency alert system, which Merkley called inadequate.

“People did not know where to go,” said Merkley, “or had sometimes turned to a Facebook group when they went to the official channels and couldn’t get proper information.”

With landlines destroyed in the fire and cell towers down, the lack of communications infrastructure is a top concern for evacuees.

The senators saying that housing and landslide preparedness are also top priorities, pledging to provide more aid in these areas.

“These are rural communities that feel that nobody pays attention to them,” said Wyden, “so the last thing I said is, folks you can write it down, we will be back.”

Wyden has proposed legislation to create a civilian conservation corps, for fire smart restoration of the forests.

“We are not gonna say those communities are sacrifice zones just because they’re in rural areas!” Wyden said.

Even after losing so much, Benefiel and his wife aren’t giving up on their community. They say they’ll return to their property as soon as they can, then live in an RV until they can rebuild.

“We’re looking at it as a new experience,” said Benefiel, “I think attitude is a lot.”

Late and breaking today: good news for evacuees on the communication front. The county says they’ve received additional mobile cell towers and are working to place them.

Residents can expect to see coverage maps in the coming days.