As of Thursday morning, the Holiday Farm fire was still burning across about 170,000 acres of land, but is now about 10% contained, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. A total of twelve wildfires are burning in Oregon, which have collectively destroyed over a million acres. About 6,500 personnel from across the US and Canada have enlisted to fight these fires, not counting the federal emergency management professionals who have started to arrive.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is giving assistance in many areas in the western United States currently affected by wildfires, including Oregon. Part of the help they give in relation to the fires is assistance with the expense of fighting the fires. In an interview on The Weather Channel, FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor stated, “The amount of devastation that those fires have impacted on California and obviously Oregon and Washington State wildfires… We talked about being proactive on mitigation, but we really just want to show support to the states to make sure they have everything they need to battle those wildfires out.”
The FEMA Regional Response Coordination Center, located in Bothell, Washington, deployed personnel to assist with emergency management until the wildfire situation is resolved. Within Oregon, FEMA federal partners have arrived at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management in Salem. Two Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) units are deployed to Oregon to assist with communication. An 80 person search and rescue team, Washington Task Force One, deployed to Lane County, with other search and rescue units deployed to other counties. FEMA has food, water, cots, blankets, and generators ready to distribute and will provide funding for temporary shelter to eligible applicants.
With FEMA rushing in, some people might be wondering whether they can actually trust this agency to help. In recent years, FEMA has gotten a lot of hate for supposed “death camps,” but those conspiracies fall apart when scrutinised. One supposed photo of a “FEMA death camp” was indeed a photo of a real concentration camp. Only one problem – it’s located in North Korea. A little clever photo editing is all it took to add the Department of Homeland Security logo to the buildings, but it was in no way an American government run prison camp.
When a disaster hits, FEMA often shows up to provide food and shelter to survivors. FEMA partners with campgrounds that have existing shelters for at least 50 people so they can provide immediate shelter to people evacuating from disaster affected areas. In some cases, FEMA partners with land owners to erect tents on their land when other suitable arrangements cannot be coordinated.
With the help of FEMA, Lane County opened a Multi-Agency Resource Center at the county fairgrounds. The resource center will be open noon to 7pm today and Friday. Evacuees can check on the status of their homes and businesses, get information about insurance claims, use a computer lab, and access veteran, senior, and disability services. McKenzie School District will be at the center passing out Chromebooks to evacuated students. Due to COVID-19, masks are required and only 100 people are allowed in the center at a time.
Lane County officials are working with area hotels to allow evacuees to stay, in spite of prior bookings and conflicting information from the Red Cross. County officials negotiated an extension for evacuees staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Franklin Boulevard in Eugene until at least October 2, and are working on a similar solution for evacuees staying in other hotels in the area.
Residents of the following Oregon counties are currently eligible for FEMA assistance: Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion. Updates from FEMA regarding the 2020 Oregon wildfires is posted here and updated hourly. Residents of affected counties can apply for FEMA assistance online, on the FEMA app, or by calling 1-800-621-3362 between 7am and 10pm. If you are speech or hearing impaired, you can call 1-800-462-7585 for accessible FEMA service. If you are vision impaired, you can call 1-800-621-3362 with 711-Relay or Video Relay Services.
For Lane County residents in need of shelter in the meantime, Lane County has two shelter areas set up, one in Eugene run by St Vincent De Paul for people experiencing homelessness, the other at the Lane County Fairgrounds. If you need access to these shelters, please visit White Bird Clinic between 9am and 5pm or call 541-687-4000.
Anyone wanting more information about the Holiday Farm Fire affecting Lane County and the surrounding area should tune in to the live streamed virtual community meeting hosted by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State Fire Marshall, beginning at 7pm PST this evening.