By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

As Oregon prepares for another wildfire season, state legislators from both parties say they are supporting a bipartisan funding package to create resilient landscapes and fire-adapted communities and provide an effective wildfire response.

A statement released by Reps. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford) and Pam Marsh (D-Southern Jackson County) said the the Oregon Forest Fire and Resilience Investment Package invests in initial attack resources to keep fires small; provides additional funding and staffing for the Oregon Department of Forestry to implement fire protection and preparedness in targeted, at-risk communities and landscapes; funds and implements a Community Resiliency and Smoke Impact Mitigation Grant Program; funds a landscape analysis of wildfire risk; and develops mitigation strategies to reduce the risk to landscapes and associated communities. The package includes $6.8 million to support these four components.

Curry County Commissioner Court Boice, who serves on the Governor’s Fire Recovery Council, said, “The state is working together from the governor on down to decrease and control fires and mitigate the effects of smoke.”

“The Oregon Forest Fire and Resilience Investment Package mirrors the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy,” Smith said. “Those goals focus on creating resilient forest landscapes, fire adapted communities, and an effective wildfire response to protect our residents.”

According to state documents, the bipartisan, four-part investment package aims to increase Forestry Department staff for fire fighting, preparedness, and resource protection: the package includes 21 positions to help meet these needs. The package includes investments across the agency, as recommended by the Secretary of State’s audit, increases landscape analysis for fire risk and mitigation strategies and enhances front-line resources.

“The recent wildfires in Oregon have revealed a need for more firefighting resources and the development of community and landscape resiliency,” Marsh said. “We can greatly enhance fire protection capacity within the Oregon Department of Forestry and make smart investments for reducing fire risk and smoke impacts while creating and sustaining healthy forests and communities.”

Last summer, Southern Oregon suffered through six weeks of choking smoke and near misses, according to Marsh. And a month later Paradise, California, a town much like many communities in our region, burned to the ground. Oregon wildfires cost a record $514 million in 2018. Trends and future projections indicate a likelihood of hotter summers and extended fire seasons.

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