Oregon State University assessment highlights concerns impacting fire survivors

SANTIAM CANYON, Ore. — The Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation recently released a report regarding the health impacts of wildfires on fire survivors.

Researchers say the trauma affects survivors from their diets all the way to their relationships.

Research and Evaluation Manager for the OSU Center for Health Innovation, Sandi Cleveland-Phibbs, says Marion County asked the center to conduct a health impact assessment on residents in the Santiam Canyon area.

That’s where the Beachie Creek Fire sparked on Labor Day weekend in 2020.

It burned 186,000 acres, destroyed countless homes, and killed at least four people.

Cleveland-Phibbs says the assessment touched on environmental, mental, housing, and food security concerns.

She says mental health concerns were the most prevalent, ranging from chronic stress to life-threatening mental health conditions.

“We need to study the long-term health impacts of what happens to communities when they experience intense fires like this. Their housing situation impacted every other area of their life,” she said.

She adds that the recovery process is worsened by the amount of paperwork fire survivors must go through following their loss.

At this time, she says there are no plans for the OSU researchers to conduct similar assessments in the southern Oregon area after the Almeda Fire.

NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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