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: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060048

Reported Deaths: 74129
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152429427102
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581500
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
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