July 28, 2020

Merkley, Wyden Announce Nearly $15 Million in Federal Funding for Oregon Department of Forestry Following Garner Complex Fire

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that the Oregon Department of Forestry will receive nearly $15 million in federal reimbursements for costs associated with fighting the Garner Complex Fire, freeing up critical resources for future firefighting needs.

The Garner Complex fire began in July 2018, when a lightning storm near Grants Pass set off a total of 12 fires that cumulatively burned more than 25,000 acres of land.

“On behalf of all Oregonians, I thank the dedicated firefighters and Department of Forestry officials who coordinated and executed the response to the Garner Complex Fire,” said Merkley. “I’m pleased that this grant funding will reimburse our state for the financial costs associated with those efforts. Uncontrolled wildfires can have a huge and devastating impact on our communities, and I’ll continue to work to ensure that we have every tool at our disposal to fight and reduce the risks of catastrophic fires in the future.”

“Fighting wildfires in southern Oregon and throughout the state requires teamwork,” Wyden said. “I’m glad the Oregon Department of Forestry has secured these reimbursements from its federal partner to cover these expenses from the Garner Complex Fire. And I’ll keep battling to build an even stronger firefighting approach that does the utmost during this fire season and beyond to protect lives and property statewide.”

“FEMA has been a strong partner of ours for many years, and the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program is critical to the success of Oregon’s wildland firefighting efforts. Their timely reimbursements help us get the critical resources we need to protect Oregonians and our state’s natural resources from wildfires,” said Doug Grafe, Chief of Fire Protection for Oregon Department of Forestry.

"This is funding that Josephine County requested almost two years ago for reimbursement costs spent on our response to a very busy fire season. Josephine County is a sub applicant to Oregon Department of Forestry and we have been anxious for resolution on this funding. This reimbursement will be at 75% of our actual costs, but will be a great boost in time for response to fires this season,” said Josephine County Commissioner Lily Morgan.

The funds, which total $14,851,502.53, will reimburse local officials for costs associated with fighting the Garner Complex Fire, including equipment and supplies, emergency work (such as evacuations and sheltering), firefighter health and safety, and mobilization and demobilization. This funding comes from the Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAGP), which supports efforts to mitigate, manage, and control fires burning in public or private-owned forests or grasslands that constitute a major disaster.

Under the FMAGP, the Regional Administrator uses four criteria to evaluate severity of a fire: 

  • Threat to lives and improved property, including threats to critical facilities/infrastructure, and critical watershed areas;
  • Availability of state and local firefighting resources;
  • High fire danger conditions, as indicated by nationally accepted indices such as the National Fire Danger Ratings System; and
  • Potential major economic impact.