PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As crews continue to battle the wildfires that ripped through the state, legislators met with fire officials Monday to talk about the ongoing response. But there are many questions remaining from people who lost their homes or just had to evacuate.
The Oregon Department of Forestry, represented by State Forester Peter Daugherty and Doug Grafe, the Chief of Fire Protection, talked about how the severity of our fire season continues to get worse year after year and that we need to fix the state’s approach to large fire funding. They said our current system is designed to handle fire costs from a decade ago.
So far this season, the Office of Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said it’s cost $15 million to battle the wildfires.
They also talked about the need to make sure communities are more prepared for wildfires and that more needs to be done to lower the overall fire risk.
State Sen. James Manning Jr., a Democrat serving the 7th District including Lane County, said he visited the fire-ravages communities of Idahna and Detroit. Dozens of homes burned to the ground and even the Idanha-Detroit Fire District lost a fire engine to the flames.
“What is that going to cost in order to make sure that we have resources on the ground and ready to go and in good working condition?” Manning said. “I saw fire trucks burned up, I saw fire trucks that needed a jump to get started, you know. Those to me are not acceptable.”
Manning said he was surprised to see how much they were able to do with so few resources. He wants to make sure the rural fire departments have what they need moving forward to be better equipped to respond.
Oregon National Guard Adjutant General Major General Mike Stencel and Deputy Director Dave Stuckey also testified about the military’s response.
The wildfires erupted on Labor Day as easterly winds roared across the state, knocking down power lines and spreading flames from existing fires. Since they exploded on September 7, the wildfires in the state have torched about 1 million acres and taken the lives of at least 9 people.
Three of the biggest fires in the state are at various levels of containment: Lionshead 13%, Beachie Creek 38%, Riverside 25%.
Officials said 100% containment is probably not achievable until the fall rains set in. But even after they’re out, there is a long road ahead for the million acres of land to recover.