A bill sponsored by a Central Oregon legislator and aimed at increasing public awareness of forest wildfire impacts passed the Oregon House Thursday on a 58-1 vote.
Sponsored by Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), House Bill 3109A was inspired by the catastrophic Pole Creek wildfire that swept through the Deschutes National Forest last fall.
“The town of Sisters was severely impacted by smoke quickly reaching ‘very unhealthy’ and ‘hazardous’ air quality levels,” Whisnant said.
“Based upon the press reports about the air quality in Central Oregon during this period, I requested data from Deschutes Public Health, Oregon Public Health, and DEQ. Next, I requested from the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife information on the impacts of forest wildfires on wildlife and aquatic habitat.”
Based upon that data, Rep. Whisnant drafted HB 3109. The bill requires the directors of the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Forestry to present a report on forest wildfire impacts to an interim legislative committee no later than February 10, 2014.
The report may include recommendations for legislation to prevent or reduce the impacts or improve state or local government responsiveness to wildfires focusing on the examples from the Pole Creek wildfire.