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People displaced by the Almeda Fire not seeking resources, officials worry

Of all the buildings damaged or destroyed in Oregon's recent spate of devastating wildfires, Jackson County alone accounts for roughly half. However, only 3,310 applications to FEMA —about 34 percent of applicants — have come from displaced Jackson County residents.

Posted: Oct 12, 2020 3:57 PM
Updated: Oct 12, 2020 5:51 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Though Jackson County accounts for fully half of the buildings destroyed by fire in Oregon during the fire events of September, officials said on Monday that they have seen alarmingly few applications for assistance from the federal government and the Red Cross.

Jackson County's acting director of Emergency Operations, John Vial, led a press briefing on Monday with the primary purpose of urging those displaced by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires to sign up for help from FEMA and the Red Cross.

(Photo courtesy of Sean Roberts)

"We are very concerned that there are people who suffered a loss, there are people that need help that have not signed up — either because they don't know about it, they don't know how to do it, or they're afraid to do it for some reason . . . and we are concerned about that," Vial said.

Of all the buildings damaged or destroyed in Oregon's recent spate of devastating wildfires, Vial said that Jackson County alone accounts for roughly half. However, only 3,310 applications to FEMA —about 34 percent of applicants — have come from displaced Jackson County residents.

Last Friday, FEMA approved Jackson County for direct housing assistance, saying that it would work with state agencies to provide temporary housing for those displaced by fire while they consider long-term options. The program will only be open to those who register with FEMA.

The Red Cross says that it has helped arrange emergency housing for 898 people displaced by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires to date, despite the fact that nearly 2,500 residential structures were destroyed or severely damaged in the fires.


RELATED: Southern Oregon Strong: Wildfire recovery resources


Meanwhile, Vial says that Monday saw a "soft start" to clean-up operations in Phoenix in Talent. Those operations begin with removal of hazardous waste, which will be taken to a staging area at the Boise Cascade property in Phoenix.

In order for any kind of government-sanctioned debris removal to begin, property owners need to fill out and submit "Right of Entry" (ROE) forms to Jackson County, allowing crews onto the property. Vial said that those forms have been mailed out, with about a third of them already returned. Oregon has set a deadline of October 16 for ROE forms to be returned.

Though hazardous debris removal operations are set to begin imminently, the much larger task of hauling out ash and other debris remains somewhere on the horizon. Vial indicated that the county and state are in negotiations regarding contracts for those efforts — a Herculean task that Vial said could involve filling 200 truckloads each day until it's completed.

It could be several months before the ash and debris removal process begins, Vial predicted.

Hazardous debris removal is being covered by government agencies at no cost to property owners, but general debris removal is somewhat more complex — a process that has concerned some displaced residents.

Vial underlined that the state will only pursue reimbursement from individual insurance policies if they involve a line-item specifically for debris removal. Oregon will not take from any funds earmarked for rebuilding, Vial said. For policies that involve a lump sum, the state won't pursue any reimbursement until after the rebuilding process is complete, seeking any amount left over.

Regardless, Vial insisted, it will be much cheaper for those who have lost their homes or businesses to go through the comprehensive state, county, and federal clean-up process, instead of seeking to do it themselves.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 156287

Reported Deaths: 2252
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31935542
Washington21311212
Marion18541285
Clackamas13426183
Lane10325129
Jackson8489114
Umatilla767882
Deschutes597561
Yamhill379168
Linn360157
Malheur335358
Polk307343
Klamath279855
Douglas252755
Josephine236553
Benton234817
Jefferson196628
Coos152420
Union129519
Columbia127421
Wasco122126
Lincoln113620
Hood River106929
Morrow104914
Clatsop7776
Crook77618
Baker6639
Curry4296
Tillamook4212
Lake3786
Harney2776
Grant2251
Wallowa1425
Gilliam541
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3582320

Reported Deaths: 53083
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119601721676
Riverside2904983849
San Bernardino2870552959
Orange2617983966
San Diego2613533342
Santa Clara1110761798
Kern103756915
Fresno957851451
Sacramento937901498
Alameda809501271
Ventura77952870
San Joaquin671231150
Contra Costa62931695
Stanislaus56433953
Tulare48114768
Monterey42335329
San Mateo39148521
San Francisco34387422
Santa Barbara32147420
Solano30216165
Merced29264407
Sonoma28261301
Imperial26926638
Kings22091220
Placer19911232
San Luis Obispo19751238
Madera15523214
Santa Cruz14736183
Marin13285198
Yolo12867185
Shasta11054179
Butte11007167
El Dorado9195100
Napa908072
Sutter889998
Yuba577638
San Benito577061
Lassen562324
Tehama510452
Nevada398874
Tuolumne396659
Mendocino382643
Amador347441
Humboldt323033
Lake316941
Glenn223223
Colusa214013
Calaveras191849
Siskiyou178414
Inyo132137
Mono12144
Del Norte10085
Plumas6536
Modoc4604
Mariposa3957
Trinity3735
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Alpine820
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