SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Oregon's delegation to Congress visited the Holiday Farm Fire's Incident Command Post and evacuation center Friday afternoon.
Representative Peter DeFazio, Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Jeff Merkley toured the two sites. The three listened to a briefing at the incident command post and talked to volunteers and evacuees at the evacuation center. Wyden said hearing about the destruction in the McKenzie valley hit home for him.
"I thought to myself this week in Washington, Blue River is gone, that wonderful community, as a result of winds and weather," Wyden said.
DeFazio said he has been at every briefing for the Holiday Farm Fire since it broke out. He said he was at his home in east Springfield when the fire started.
"I was sitting on my front deck," DeFazio said. "All of a sudden that wind started picking up and picking up. I started hearing limbs breaking in the forest."
Merkley said this destruction is something the state has never seen before. He said the smoke covering the state is so expansive.
The delegation was able to secure an emergency declaration Thursday night. The declaration, signed by President Donald Trump, will authorize dollars to be used in protecting property in lives throughout Oregon. For example, the Red Cross will receive money to help pay for hotel rooms for evacuees.
"The emergency declaration gets us immediate federal assets," DeFazio siad. "It gets us the individual assistance for housing, for food, for basic necessities."
The next step is drafting a major disaster declaration. This will authorize money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be used for the rebuilding effort.
"That takes longer," DeFazio said. "We actually got to be able to get people up there. We're going to bring in the regional administrator of FEMA, probably Tuesday or Wednesday. We'll just be looking at it to give him the scope of the destruction of Blue River and elsewhere. Then we actually have to go out and inventory and they have to inventory all the properties. They have to access the property tax record. Then they will give people the assistance to rebuild."