Detroit gets $1M grant to restore water system damaged by wildfire

Wildfires

Fires in the west burned nearly 6M acres in 2020

A fire engine from the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District sits on Detroit Avenue Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Detroit, Ore. The engine was destroyed on Wednesday when the Lionshead Fire over-ran the resort community of Detroit, Ore., merging with the Beachie Creek Fire. Only the post office and a market survived the fire in the town’s business district. (Mark Ylen/Albany Democrat-Herald via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Detroit is getting a $1 million federal grant to restore running water after the town’s water treatment facility burned during last year’s Labor Day fires.

Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who announced the grant Tuesday, said the money will go towards creating a temporary ultrafiltration packaged plant that will supply potable water.

“I’m glad these essential infrastructure resources have been secured to rebuild the water infrastructure, and know full well there’s much more to be done,” said Wyden. “I’ll keep fighting for that help for Detroit and all the Oregon communities working so hard to recover and rebound from these destructive wildfires.”

Lightning sparked the Lionshead Fire, which began August 16, 2020, in Lionshead Canyon on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation approximately 14 miles west of the Warm Springs community. Subsequently, an historic windstorm on Monday, September 7 quickly spread the fire west onto the Willamette, Deschutes and Mt. Hood National Forests. Officials said 264 homes in Detroit were lost in the blaze. 

Detroit Mayor Jim Trett told the Statesman Journal it wasn’t clear when the water would actually be running and that it could take anywhere from two weeks to a month or longer.

The grant is being administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program. A FEMA official toured the region in October of 2020 at the request of Merkley and Wyden.

In 2020 alone, fires in the west burned more than 5.8 million acres, took the lives of 30 people, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

“When I went to Detroit to see up close the damage of the Lionshead fire and meet with affected Oregonians, I saw an unfathomable amount of destruction and heard heartbreaking stories of loss—loss of life, homes, and an entire community as we knew it,” said Merkley. “Rebuilding the water system and restoring critical water services is a critical step, and there will be plenty more to do but I know the people of Detroit are resilient and will bounce back. Our road to recovery may be long, but we’re going to get through this together.”

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