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Ore. governor requests federal emergency declaration for wildfires

More than 270,000 acres continue to burn across the state


High-voltage overhead power lines buzz in smoke-filled air in Clackamas County, Ore., on Sept. 10, 2022.

Photo/Mark Graves/Tribune News Service

Austin De Dios

SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown has asked President Joe Biden to approve a federal emergency declaration for Oregon due to the extreme wildfire conditions as over 270,000 acres still burn across the state.

If approved, the declaration would allow the state to access federal funds for wildfire response and preparation, said Bobbi Doan, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Emergency Management. This would include the cost of deploying firefighters and creating evacuation sites. Had the declaration been approved before the strong winds shut off power in many areas of Oregon last week, the state could have requested emergency power generators, Doan said.

Brown made her request on Sept. 9, one day after warning the state of dangerous weather conditions that weekend. In it, she described the extreme drought the state has been facing since March, and the red flag weather conditions – hot, dry winds and low humidities – seen over the weekend that prompted power shutoffs to around 50,000 people.

Brown wrote that the severity of the conditions and rapid growth of the number of wildfires would expand beyond the state and stress local government’s capabilities. The declaration would allow Oregon to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide power emergency generation, communications, evacuation support, debris removal and preparation for future fires.

Brown specifically requested assistance in debris removal and emergency protective measures.

If approved, Oregon would be the first state to receive federal assistance for wildfires under the 1988 Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

“Oregon would be the first,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday, " but unfortunately, certainly not the last to need this important assistance.”

While evacuation orders are being lifted for many of Oregon’s large wildfires, including the Double Creek fire that spans over 150,000 acres, the state’s fire season is not over yet.

“We still have several weeks of peak fire season ahead of us, five large active fires, and 274,000 acres burning statewide,” Brown said in the statement.


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