Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to recent fires in Harney and Malheur counties.
More than 750,000 acres burned over the course of a week in Southeast Oregon. The governor's executive order directs state agencies to oversee a coordinated effort to assist landowners and seek federal assistance for recovery.
"These were some of the largest fires in Oregon history, and I send my thanks to the professional and volunteer firefighters and emergency responders who contained the fire while protecting people and property,” said Governor Kitzhaber.
"Now we must ensure the immediate and long-term recovery of this region. I have directed my staff and state agencies to prioritize assistance and engage closely with federal partners, counties, and local communities," he added.
In addition to the emergency declaration, Kitzhaber said he has asked Oregon Solutions to coordinate with Oregon’s Congressional delegation, relevant agencies and partners to work through related economic and natural resource issues.
Full text of the Executive Order: http://governor.oregon.gov/gov/docs/executive_orders/eo_12-11.pdf.
The state's second-largest wildfire so far this summer, burning in southeastern Oregon, is nearing containment.
Fire crews have been working around the clock to bring the 162,000-acre Miller Homestead Fire under control.
Monday night, fire officials said the fire was 85 percent contained.
"It may be that by the end of the week this team turns the fire over to local teams," said Sonya Catek, public information officer.
On Thursday, the fire raced across nearly 100,000 acres of sagebrush and dry grass, leaving ranchers with little to feed their cattle.
"Ranchers will be concerned about the loss of grasslands," said Catek. "There were approximately 25 head of cattle that had died on this fire."
As firefighters dig line and snuff out flames, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., made a trip to Burns for an update on the state's largest wildfires.
"It was really a very good informational session," Walden told NewsChannel 21 afterward. "I think people came away from it with a much clearer understanding of the scope and problems faced by these firefighters on a fire of this size."
Walden says the focus now turns to restoring the rangeland and helping ranchers who have lost grazing land get back on their feet as soon as possible.
"I think that's going to be the most important thing is trying to make sure the federal government and the Obama administration focuses on this problem," said Walden, "and they are willing to step up as soon as possible with the assets we need to restore the range."
The congressman also said there are several options on the table to help those affected by the recent wildfires.
One is through the Farm Bill, to provide relief for these sorts of disasters. The second is opening some of the protected lands to grazing for a short period of time.
Walden said the second option would be more difficult because there aren't many protected lands near the fires.