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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Merkley Meets With Local Leaders To Discuss Rebuilding Efforts After Almeda Fire

A Mustang track loader stands idle in front of a home that's nearly done being built.
April Ehrlich
/
JPR News
A home in Talent that was destroyed in the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8, 2020, is nearing completing as of early May 2021.

Senator Jeff Merkley met with local leaders yesterday in Phoenix, Oregon to discuss rebuilding efforts a year after the Almeda fire.

The meeting, held in Phoenix’s town hall, came on the heels of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed on the U.S Senate. Recovery in the Southern Oregon towns of Talent and Phoenix has been slow since the Alameda fire but Merkley says the infrastructure bill will speed up rebuilding of the community.

Currently, only 50 out of the 700 families who lost their homes in Talent have found permanent housing. Many in Jackson County are instead in FEMA trailers. Andrew Phelps, the director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management says that there is a story behind every number or statistic we see in the recovery notices.

“That's someone's life,” says Phelps. “That's a vital person in our community and represents a person or a family whose rebuilding story and recovery story is just now starting to be told in a lot of ways.”

In Jackson County, while the debris removal from the fire is almost complete, only 14% of residential building permits have been approved. Furthermore, many of the people displaced by the fire lived in mobile homes and were either uninsured or under-insured. This makes recovery a lengthier process.

At the meeting, Merkley also discussed an upcoming reconciliation bill that could inject billions of dollars into forest management and job creation, if passed.