Fire agencies update Sen. Wyden on wildfire preparations

MEDFORD, Ore.– State and federal forest service agencies met with Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden in Medford Wednesday morning to discuss a variety of topics for fire preparation and an update on this year’s wildfire season.

“I don’t want to see, particularly coming out of Washington D.C. so-called solutions that make the challenges we have worse,” said Wyden during the meeting.

It’s been one year since devastating fires and smoke resulted in a terrible wildfire season in southern Oregon.

“The kind of summer that we saw last year is obviously the wake-up call,” he said.

While agencies discussed a variety of topics from air quality information to drone use, the biggest takeaway for both agencies and Senator Wyden was showing the progress made with fuels management and the need for more support in that area.

“All of this work that we’re doing collaboratively to reduce hazardous fuels so hopefully, we’ll see some future funding available so we can do more of it,” said Merv George, forest supervisor for Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Service.

George says the new wildfire disaster funding bill passed last year will help with that issue.

“It was making it really hard for us to do all the things that we need to do holistically at a forest level when the majority of your funding was going towards fires,” he said.

According to the National Weather Service, peak fire season has just begun for southern Oregon. It emphasizes this mild weather shouldn’t make people comfortable.

The forest service acknowledges that concern and says they’re prepared for what may come.

“Looking at today’s weather and what we’ve got going on here in the near future, it looks like August and September are going to be our busy months,” said George.

Senator Wyden says he intends to look into furthering the use of technologies like drones to help firefighters battle wildfires. The wildfire disaster funding, which Wyden also helped pass, will start to take effect this year.

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