President declares Oregon fires an emergency, Douglas County to receive FEMA assistance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Thursday it has authorized grants to assist with the costs of fighting the Archie Creek Fire that has burned 107,000 acres east of Glide.

FEMA approved a request from Gov. Kate Brown to add the Archie Creek Fire to the list of fires across Oregon for which the agency is sending financial assistance.

“Having FEMA funding available to combat this unprecedented wildfire is invaluable for Douglas County,” Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman said in an email. “We sincerely appreciate the Trump Administration for making this happen so quickly.”

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O’Hare said Thursday in a press release that the fires threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster, and he approved the state’s requests for Fire Management Assistance Grants.

Fire Management Assistance Grants are specifically used to fund firefighting efforts, and cover expenses for things like field camps, equipment repair, mobilization efforts, and tools and supplies.

FEMA said the state will also receive $1.9 million in Hazard Mitigation Grants, which will be used once the fires are over to mitigate wildfire hazards and related hazards such as floods or erosion.

Both the state and the county have declared a state of emergency due to the fires.

The move followed pleas from Oregon’s congressional delegation Wednesday to President Donald Trump to declare the fires in Douglas and other Oregon counties as major disasters.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with the state’s other congressional representatives, specifically urged that Douglas and other Oregon counties receive an emergency declaration that would entitle them to assistance with both fighting fires and recovering from the damage.

“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,” they wrote.

They wrote that Oregon is facing its worst drought in 30 years and that, combined with high winds and dry fuels, led to the level of the disaster.

DeFazio followed that up with a second letter Wednesday in which he requested help for his Southwest Oregon district including Douglas County.

“Severe wildfires are burning throughout my district,” he wrote. “Lane, Douglas, and Linn counties are particularly hard-hit, and other counties may soon face the same severe fire dangers. It is imperative that the federal government support these local communities with the resources they need.”

The number and scale of fires burning in Oregon right now are “unprecedented, and urgent action is necessary,” he said.

A spokesperson for DeFazio’s office said the congressman is still seeking a federal emergency declaration from the president, separately from the funding FEMA announced Thursday.