Devastation

Federal funding is now available to help areas in Oregon, including Columbia County, impacted by the wildfires. This photo shows the devastation left behind in an area outside of Columbia County.

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Columbia County will receive a portion of federal disaster funding for emergency protective measures from the federal government, according to the major disaster declaration signed by President Donald Trump.

The declaration also allows local businesses and individuals who suffered losses impacted by the September wildfires to apply for the federal assistance.

Temporarily Closed

The St. Helens Dutch Brothers Coffee kiosk was forced to temporarily close over the past weekend due to the unhealthy air quality. It has since reopened.

Smoke Navigation

River commerce along the Columbia River in Columbia County continued despite the heavy smoke and fog, but it caused tug boat operators and ships to use their loud fog horns to ensure safe navigation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that federal emergency aid has been made available to the state of Oregon to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires and straight-line winds beginning on Sept. 7, 2020 and continuing.

The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available to state, tribal, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures including congregate and non-congregate sheltering and direct federal assistance.

Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, will be provided at 75% federal funding. This assistance is for Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington and Yamhill counties.

Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Dolph A. Diemont has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response and recovery operations in the affected area. Designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of damage assessments.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362, or 1-800-462-7585 TTY.

The Oregon wildfires burned over 1 million acres, destroyed 1,145 homes and killed eight people, according to state officials, who said 16 people were still missing as of Sept. 15.

Columbia County has not seen major wildfires so far this summer, however, the smoke from the Oregon wildfires caused unhealthy air quality and temporarily closed some local businesses.

The smoke has lingered in Columbia County since Monday, Sept. 7. Forecasters expect rain over much of the state by Thursday, which should help clear the smoke.

Air quality today

The Southwest Clean Air Agency, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency has continued an Air Quality Advisory, which is in effect until noon Thursday.

A Smoke Air Quality Advisory remains in effect. Wildfires burning in the region combined with forecasted conditions will cause air quality to reach unhealthy levels at times through Thursday morning.

Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, aggravate heart and lung diseases, and aggravate other serious health problems. Limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors if it is smoky. Please follow medical advice if you have a heart or lung condition.

Gov. Brown's reaction

Following an expedited request to President Trump by Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Monday, Oregon was notified within 24 hours that federal emergency aid has been made available to the state to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires and straight-line winds beginning on Sept. 7, 2020 and continuing.

“Oregon is resilient, but to fight fires on this scale, we need all the help we can get,” Brown said. “I am grateful for the White House’s swift response in quickly granting a Presidential Disaster Declaration and the immediate implementation of FEMA’s individual assistance program, which will help bring additional relief to Oregonians impacted by the devastation of these fires.”

The declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area can begin applying for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or 1-800-462-7585 TTY. Affected Oregonians are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Federal assistance through FEMA’s Public Assistance program is available to Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington and Yamhill counties.

“Our office will be working hand-in-hand with FEMA over the coming weeks to ensure that Oregonians know how to apply for assistance,” Oregon Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said. “This is an important step toward rebuilding the strength of our communities.”

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