Fire Season Funding Deferred to 2014

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Smoke filled the Rogue Valley and complex fires engulfed southern Oregon in what was the most costly fire season in Oregon. State representatives met Friday to try and figure out how to cover tens of millions of dollars.

“We’re about 40 million short, roughly, right now on what we owe versus what we actually have on hand to pay. So, what we’re doing is borrowing a little bit. We’re paying all of our bills, everyone gets paid,” said Senator Alan Bates.

The Emergency Board has thirty million dollars leaving the state needing to pay 10 million dollars from the general fund. Instead of draining the emergency fund of the 30 million, the entire 40 million dollar payment has been deferred until the 2014 legislative session. At that session budgeting for fire season is expected to be a hot topic.

“We may have a new normal here,” said Senator Bates.

With dry weather and a lower snow pack in recent years, Senator Bates said options need to be explored to make sure the state is prepared should another round of severe wildfires pop up next summer.

“Do we buy a 50 million or 75 million dollar insurance policy? Do we try to set aside some general fund money for possible fire suppression this coming summer? We’ll make those decisions in February,” said Bates.