Senator Merkley visits information center, updated on fires

JOSEPHINE COUNTY, Ore.– Senator Jeff Merkley met with forest management agencies and fire officials Tuesday morning to learn more about the raging fires across southwest Oregon.

The meeting was meant to inform the senator about the current situation Jackson and Josephine County are facing and what needs to be done in order to help fire fighters contain these inferno’s.

“I was struck about the huge amount of cooperation that they were describing,” said Sen. Merkley. “Including the cooperation that comes from crews coming down from Alaska, from the Oregon National Guard being an integral part of the effort.”

With hundreds of thousands of people affected by evacuations, poor air quality and looming wildfires, the situation is being labeled as one of the worst fire years southwest Oregon has experienced in recent memory.

After the meeting, Merkley discussed with agencies ideas on how to better assist them and solutions that could be implemented quickly.

“More resources to fight fires. We can do some more thinning make the forest more resilient,” he said. “But as long as these summers get hotter and drier with a lot more lighting strikes then we’re going to have a lot more acreage getting burned.”

An omnibus bill and farm bill are both aimed at improving funding for forest agencies in the coming years however, Sen. Merkley acknowledged the need to find immediate and readily available solutions.

According to the senator, one of those solutions involves a collaborative effort by environmental groups and timber companies to work on forest restoration projects and improve the health of the forests.


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