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Senator Merkley Visits Fire Crews, County Leaders

Some of them said they wanted extra air resources to fight the fires.

Posted: Aug. 14, 2018 7:02 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) spent the day in Southern Oregon hearing from fire crews and county leaders about the many fire fights in the region.

Lily Morgan, a Josephine County commissioner says hospitals in her county are full of people with smoke-related illnesses.

"Even my grandmother is affected by the smoke -- more congestion, more coughs," Morgan said. "So you see the CCO's and the local healthcare providers having to deal with the ramifications."

Merkley heard from 12 different people, from a wide range of agencies.

Some of them said they wanted extra air resources to fight the fires.

Merkley says he wants his colleagues in Washington D.C. to work across the aisle to make sure this year's fire season isn't repeated.

"We need to take a look at the tools in the immediate toolbox for fighting fires," Merkley said. "But it also means that all of us have to come together across party lines and every which way [to] recognize that the carbon pollution that's driving a hotter planet is really the driver behind all of this."

Morgan also expressed frustration with the amount of resources lost from the fires. 

She said her county has lost $8 million to $9 million from burnt forest so far. That money would have gone toward the county juvenile shelter for the next two years.

Some of those forests had been destroyed 15 years ago in another fire. She said those trees don't have any value when their salvaged because they're too young. 

"The value of the tree is at a certain point in life when it’s best to harvest it harvest it before it starts dying," Morgan said. 

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