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Proposed legislation would help Oregon’s fairgrounds to shelter wildfire evacuees

Dirk VanderHart
Evacuees from the Santiam Fire are gathering at the state fairgrounds in Salem, where county officials and the American Red Cross have established an aid center.

Oregon lawmakers are considering legislation that would prepare Oregon’s fairgrounds for use as evacuation sites.

House Bill 2948 would provide $20 million in grants to improve power, water and internet infrastructure at fairgrounds, which have sometimes been used to shelter people fleeing wildfires.

State Rep. Charlie Conrad is a chief sponsor of the bill. The Lane County Republican said some fairgrounds’ aging infrastructure has faltered in emergencies.
“If you’ve been evacuated, and all you’re worrying about is using a restroom, and the plumbing isn’t functioning right, you can’t really work on everything else that you do during the disaster — contacting friends, family, processing the event that’s going on.”

Conrad said the grants would most help rural sites that are publicly owned and lack funding from their counties. He hopes the state will be able to distribute the money starting this summer. A hearing for the bill has not yet been scheduled.

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