PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation providing more than $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness into law on Friday.
Brown signed the bipartisan-supported legislation that, her office said, is the culmination of the years-long effort of the Governor’s Wildfire Council, the Oregon legislatures and various state agencies.
Senate Bill 762 underscores 3 strategies: “creating fire-adapted communities, developing safe and effective responses, and increasing the resiliency of Oregon’s landscapes,” the governor’s office said.
Leading up to the bill signing, Brown thanked the various people and groups who worked to get this bill passed. She also praised the wildland firefighters on the front lines, who have worked day and night to battle down the wildfires that have ravaged our state.
“The $220 million in investments means building fire adaptive communities, improving our wildfire response and creating healthier and more resilient landscapes. We know that for every single dollar we spend on fire prevention, that investment is returned eleven-fold in saved wildfire costs,” Brown said. “We certainly have a lot of work still ahead of us to implement this bill. However, what is really, really clear is that we are laying the roadmap and devoting the resources needed to transform our approach to meet the new challenges of this new era of firefighting.”
She said the bill exemplifies that by working together, we can create a safer and more resilient state.
When asked if this amount will be enough, Brown said the $220 million is a good down payment — but there is no question there will need to be additional resources in the future.
Matt Donegan, then chair of the Wildfire Response Council, joined Brown at the signing via video call. He also recognized the many contributors to the bill before discussing the bill.
“We can do this, we can tackle the challenges of wildfire as with climate change more broadly — but it’s going to take a fundamental shift in the scale and speed at which we operate,” Donegan said. “Here in Oregon, as across the globe, we’ve never confronted a challenge as daunting as climate change and its effects such as wildfires, but we can and we must step up and meet this challenge.”
He stated we must modernize rapidly and at a large scale — all while staying cost-effective. Oregon’s wildfire bill, he said, is an important step towards that.
Wildfires got off to an early start in Oregon and the entire Pacific coast in 2021, following a year that saw the historic Labor Day wildfires roar through Oregon.
The Bootleg Fire continues to be the largest wildfire in the US at this time.
An overview of the major wildfires in Oregon, listed by the date they started
Elbow Creek Fire
Reported July 15
22,901 acres, 43% containment
Information: Elbow Creek Fire
Began July 12, unknown cause
195 acres, 53% contained
Estimated containment: Sep 30
Information on Bruler Fire
Began July 11, unknown cause
6,032 acres, 95% contained
Information: Grandview Fire
Began July 6, lightning
413,545 acres, 53% containment
The acreage contains the merged Bootleg and Log fires
Evacuation Levels for Bootleg Fire
Information: Bootleg Fire
Began July 5, unknown cause
22,248 acres, 60% containment
Information: Jack Fire
Central Oregon wildfires sparked by thunderstorms
On Thursday, officials say a total of 19 wildfire incidents were sparked by thunderstorms across Central Oregon.
The largest blaze, dubbed the Deep Creek Fire, is sitting at 2,000 acres. It’s located to the west of Shaniko, directly north of the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 197 near Deep Creek.
The second-largest fire was near Prineville and has already been contained. It grew to a total of 840 acres but has been fought down by the Ashwood Rural Fire Protection District with resources from the Prineville Bureau of Land Management District.
Another fire started near Bend and eventually grew to 1.6 acres. Thankfully, an air tanker was passing over the area when the fire began and spotted smoke. The air tanker quickly started the initial attack while the fire was still small.
All other fires were contained at 0.1 of an acre or less, aside from one 2-acre fire that was also quickly contained.