U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, said Tuesday it’s important to examine whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance to communities suffering from wildfires is adequate.

DeFazio, who is chairperson of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, held a hearing on that subject in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. The hearing, before a transportation subcommittee that oversees emergency management, examined whether communities are getting the help they need before, during and after wildfires.

DeFazio standard mug

DeFazio

DeFazio said it’s an issue critical for states like Oregon, where climate change and an expanding wildland-urban interface are causing wildfires to “inflict an unprecedented amount of damage.”

In 2020, Oregon experienced the most devastating wildfire season in recent history. More than 5,000 buildings, including thousands of homes in low-income communities were destroyed, tens of thousands of Oregonians were forced to evacuate, and nine people died.

In Douglas County, 109 homes were lost to the Archie Creek Fire in 2020.

“I am grateful for FEMA’s tireless work in Oregon and across the U.S. to help disaster-impacted communities recover. However, the growing number and severity of wildfires and their impact, particularly in the West, makes it necessary to reevaluate whether FEMA’s programs are doing enough to support local communities,” DeFazio said.

He argued the answer is to expand funding for mitigation projects, such as creating defensible space around homes.

DeFazio introduced the legislation to help individuals and communities invest in those projects.

Relief programs also must meet the needs of survivors after the fires, he said.

Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus, D-Nevada, said wildfires now start earlier and burn hotter and larger. All the Western states are affected, she said.

She cited a need to cut red tape, saying many have complained of a burdensome bureaucracy at FEMA.

DeFazio and Titus mentioned they had introduced a Resilient AMERICA package of legislation that would boost resources for mitigation, including helping communities update building codes and establishing a grant program for states assisting residents in creating defensible space around their homes.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(9) comments

Mike

Oregon Dem. Rep. Peter DeFazio may have been referring to our Douglas County Commissioners when he said yesterday, “We've got a lot of whacked-out people in this country that are killing people, plain and simple…In three counties in the southern part of my district – deep red counties – vaccine rates of 40%, people have died waiting to get into the ICU."

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dem-rep-defazio-caught-on-hot-mic-swearing-amid-gop-speech-fu-a/ar-AAQ438f?li=BBnb7Kz

mworden

Mike, I'm gonna earmark this for the next time you protest that I'm misquoting you. Glass houses ... rocks. You get the point.

Mike

What part is misquoted?

mworden

The part where you interpret his remarks to be about the commissioners. He didn't say he was talking about them and there are so many other candidates in the three counties.

Huge bbfan

This is 2021. He's about a year late with his "concern " isn't he? A day late and a dollar short. That's ol Peter!

CitizenJoe

Peter DeFazio is not late with his concern; he was working on this issue long *before* the Archie Creek fire.

https://www.congress.gov/event/116th-congress/house-event/LC64872/text?s=1&r=3

GetItRight

WOW.... Given today's comments about a VETERAN, which Peter will never become, congressman and his misrepresentation on vaccination rates in his own constituency at the same session Peter has shown some true colors... flush time unfortunately LANE County will keep this disrespecting person in office. I wonder what kind of deferment he got?

GetItRight

Not fact checking and listening to hearsay ... my mistake although having been active and reserve during the same time, AF Reserve like NG, USCG and others during that period where different. So with DD in hand Peter should watch open mike time comments.

CitizenJoe

GetItRight: that's quite a word salad. It's tainted with a sort of E. coli O157:H7 lie:

"...a VETERAN, which Peter will never become...." Congressman Peter DeFazio is a veteran.

Why do you hate veterans?

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