DeFazio, FEMA administrator talk wildfire disaster recovery

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor will be spending two days in Oregon to witness the devastation from the wildfires

Posted: Oct 3, 2020 9:56 AM
Updated: Oct 4, 2020 8:56 AM

EUGENE, Ore. — Rep. Peter DeFazio and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor wrapped up a roundtable discussion at the University of Oregon Saturday morning on the topic of disaster recovery.

The group met to discuss long-term housing for those displaced, rebuilding efforts for the community and mitigating hazardous waste that can flow into the McKenzie River.

“Today, we’ve registered about 7,000 disaster survivors,” FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor said. “We may need to register a few thousand more. We’ve also got about $14 million in the hands of disaster funds today. That will continue. We are still responding to fires. We’re going to recover at the same time. Recovery does take a little bit of time, but with a team effort and great leadership from the Chairman and leadership here in the state, I am absolutely positively sure we will get through it.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio said that FEMA is well-resourced to help with the recovery process.

“He (Gaynor) said they will bring in people to help us coordinate with other federal agencies for particular problems we might have -- if we have to access money through Housing and Urban Development or the Environmental Protection Agency or anybody else,” DeFazio said. “They will help us go through the federal maze. I'm really pleased he’s here. He's going to spend two days in Oregon. We’re going to go down to Medford, and then tomorrow we are going up north up into Clackamas County.”

The group discussed both long-term and short-term solutions.

“We are doing everything we can to help,” DeFazio said. “I know living in a hotel or bunking up with friends or family somewhere else is not a good solution.The federal government will pay for housing for up to 18 months. Hopefully during those 18 months, we can get them the assistance they need to replace their homes if they were not insured. For those who were insured, they will have time to work with their insurance company to rebuild.”

DeFazio said that the partnership with the UO is incredibly important.

“The university places a unique role in mitigation for disasters,” DeFazio said. “They have a very robust program. They've assigned some of their students to get into these communities that have been destroyed and to give them some help in planning their recovery efforts.”

He reflected on the firsthand look he received of the destruction.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” DeFazio said. ‘There's nothing left of the town of Blue River. It looked like when we firebombed Dresden in Germany. It was heartbreaking, and then the McKenzie River corridor--that shouldn't have burned. No one is aware that the corridor has ever burned like that before. This was an absolutely unprecedented event, and one could only link it back to climate change.”

Administrator Gaynor will be leaving Oregon Sunday night.

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