EUGENE, Ore. -- Lane County leaders are speaking out on Tuesday, saying the Federal Emergency Management Agency was wrong to deny a request for more housing options for wildfire victims.
According to the county, FEMA denied a state and local request for direct housing assistance to Lane County survivors, which would have opened up a variety of options, including FEMA trailers.
Staff said FEMA justified their denial saying the area of the Holiday Farm Fire is too dangerous for temporary housing solutions because of the potential for landslides and floods. FEMA also said there are enough rental options in the Eugene-Springfield area that temporary housing along the McKenzie River corridor isn’t necessary.
“This denial is incredibly frustrating and disappointing to say the least,” said Austin Ramirez, the Economic Development Manager for the county. “I would disagree with many of their findings. But I would say it's important to note that while this removes the four forms of direct housing assistance, this does not remove all forms of FEMA housing assistance.”
Ramirez said leaders are meeting with FEMA later this week to clarify their findings and learn more about other forms of housing assistance available.
“It certainly doesn't mean that FEMA has stepped out of the picture completely. They were pretty proactive in their outreach to us after that denial,” Ramirez said.
Still, the denial drew criticism from multiple county commissioners who expressed concerns about survivors becoming homeless during the cold winter months.
“I'm wondering how the hell FEMA denied this, and what recourse we have,” said Joe Berney, Lane County commissioner representing District 2. “We all know that that's just an incorrect conclusion they came to and there are lives on the line.”
Ramirez said the county is exploring options and considering an appeal.