Wildfire Update- July 16, 2012
As firefighters contain the historic wildfires in southeast Oregon, I wanted to take a moment to update you on the situation. I’d first like to offer thanks to the local citizens who banded together to protect their homes, ranches, and livelihoods by initially taking on these fires with limited resources. I have heard many good stories—like the work done by the Jordan Valley rangeland protection district firefighters. Folks in Harney County should be commended as well. I would also like to thank the firefighters who came in and are currently fighting these fires. These brave men and women go into harm’s way and try to protect local communities, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. The citizens of Malheur and Harney Counties— along with the firefighters—will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers this week.
Tonight, I’ll be at a community meeting in Burns to listen to the concerns of the community and continue to press all levels of government to be flexible in responding to these fires and the aftermath. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center (484 N. Broadway in Burns). Brian Watts, the incident commander for the Miller Homestead fire, will give an update and answer questions from the community.
I’ll continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure federal agencies, states, and communities have what they need to fight these wildfires and assist in the recovery.
On Saturday, I received additional guidance from the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) on their efforts to locate private farmlands in nearby counties in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) where ranchers can relocate their cattle for emergency grazing. Given that there is likely little CRP ground in the adjacent counties, I am urging FSA to allow this in other counties where ample CRP ground exists and to provide exact details on available lands for this program as soon as possible. Moving to CRP ground may not work for every rancher, but it is one short-term option to help as other solutions are being developed. For additional details, please call my office in Oregon toll-free at 800-533-3303.
Over the weekend, representatives from my office were in Frenchglen, Jordan Valley, Diamond, Burns, and the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to listen to the people in those communities as we continue to work on fighting these fires and the recovery. A special thank you to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for being flexible in allowing ranchers in the surrounding area temporary access to their lands. This kind of thinking is exactly what we’ll need in the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years.
A quick update on the fires themselves—as of Monday morning, the Long Draw fire in Malheur County has burned over 582,000 acres and is 100% contained. The Miller Homestead fire in Harney County has burned over 162,000 acres and is 70% contained. The Bonita Complex fire in Malheur County has burned over 18,000 acres and is 85% contained. You can find more details, including maps, at http://www.inciweb.org/state/38/.