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Gov. Brown Visits Jackson County Area Hit By Almeda Fire

A woman stands behind a man as they talk to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown amid a mobile home park that burned in the Almeda Fire.
April Ehrlich
/
JPR News
Judy and Tony Baalman, left, speak with Gov. Kate Brown at the Mountain View Estates Mobile Home Park in Talent. Most of the homes in this park were destroyed in the fire, including theirs.

Gov. Kate Brown Thursday toured areas burned by last year’s Almeda Fire in Jackson County.

Brown met with public officials and journalists at the Mountain View Estates Mobile Home Park in Talent, where most of its homes were destroyed in the fire. She spoke to the challenges that many Oregonians are facing in getting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“They’re not eligible for FEMA funding and they have limited resources,” Brown said. “These families are part of our communities. They’re part of the economic and cultural fabric of our communities. The state needs to step up and we need to get it done.”

This was Brown’s second time touring the wildfire zone since the fire destroyed 2,600 homes in September.

Almost two-thirds of the homes destroyed were in manufactured home parks. The state-led disaster cleanup has completed clearing debris from parks so owners can begin rebuilding.

The state-led cleanup started in earnest in January. The state focused on clearing debris from manufactured home parks first, before moving onto single-family homes and commercial properties.

“We started off kind of slow,” said Jerry Marmon of the Oregon Wildfire Debris Management Task Force. “We did that on purpose because we want to understand the challenges, both operationally and safety. But we ramped up very quickly.”

Most home spaces at the Mountain View Estates are empty plots of dirt, save for a few surviving houses.

“I think there’s always folks that say it didn't happen fast enough,” Brown said. “We want to make sure it’s done right. We want to make sure that it’s done safely. And we want to make sure these communities can rebuild and we’re committed to making sure they have the tools and the resources to make that happen.”

Brown’s two-day tour of Jackson County came just a day after she moved the county into extreme risk due to increasing coronavirus cases. Her tour was strictly monitored and not open to the public.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.