“Our firefighters, our land, and the families and businesses near these fires need support immediately,” said Merkley. “I’m glad FEMA is stepping up so that our first responders can prevent as much damage as possible and so we can help Oregon families who will need to rebuild their homes and their lives after the fire ends.”
The funds that Merkley announced can be used by local officials for equipment and supplies, emergency work (such as evacuations and sheltering), an emergency operations center, firefighter health and safety, and mobilization and demobilization costs. This funding comes from the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAGP), which allows for “mitigation, management and control” of fires burning in public or private-owned forests or grasslands that threaten destruction that would constitute a major disaster.
At this time, 2,000 homes in and near the City of Bend are under threat. Covering both private lands and part of the Deschutes National Forest, the fire has spread to cover 6,000 acres, and 250 homes have been evacuated. The fire presents a major threat to the city’s surface water supply due to its proximity to a municipal watershed. Also at risk is a communications site used for 9-1-1 services. The Oregon state fire marshal has assigned three structural task forces comprising 300 firefighters.
Under the FMAGP program, the Regional Administrator uses four criteria to evaluate the threat posed by a fire:
- Threat to lives and improved property, including threats to critical facilities/infrastructure, and critical watershed areas;
- Availability of state and local firefighting resources;
- High fire danger conditions, as indicated by nationally accepted indices such as the National Fire Danger Ratings System; and
- Potential major economic impact.