Senator Wyden Talks Wildfires: Air Quality and Disaster Relief

Jul 30, 2018

Oregon's Democratic U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
Credit Mike Theiler / Reuters

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden stopped by KLCC on his way to Medford Sunday where he met with fire officials battling the Garner Complex Fire in Southern Oregon. Senator Wyden shared his thoughts about the impacts of wildfires, ranging from smoke in the air to the devastation on the ground.

Wyden says he’s concerned about where recent fire events are headed, especially given the impacts on air quality.  “I feel so strongly that kids and seniors in our part of the country should not have to be fearful of opening the front door and choking on smoke” explains Wyden.

He says everyone should be concerned with the effects of wildfire smoke. “Already the fire experts are telling us “well you can go here or you can go there to find some clean air”- well it seems to me that when you have clean air refugees on your hands, you are on your way to a public health crisis."

Last week Senator Wyden sent U.S. Forest Service Interim Chief Vicky Christianson a request for an outline of the next steps in terms of fighting fires including prioritizing the removal of hazardous fuel buildup throughout Oregon’s forests.

Also last week, Senator Wyden partnered with Governor Kate Brown and Senator Jeff Merkely to ask federal officials to make some of the 12-billion-dollars promised to American farmers in tariff relief also available to Oregon farmers affected by wildfires. “So much of what we do depends on trade and what we like to do is grow things here, make thing here, add value to them here, and then ship them somewhere” says Wyden. “It’s pretty hard to do that when your farmers are getting clobbered with these fires. It seems to me this is the kind of funding that ought to be available for our farmers and we need it right away.”

Senator Wyden says the increased instances of crop loss due to natural disasters has been made worse by recent tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration. However, he adds that regardless of the president’s trade strategy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must act to assist American farmers enduring disaster now.

Southern Oregon regional managers from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management briefed Wyden on firefighting efforts during a meeting in the Medford Interagency Office Sunday. Oregon’s wildfire season generally lasts until October.

See below to hear the full interview with Senator Wyden where he addresses wildfires, tarrifs, the Supreme Court nomination, and the idea of Russian influences on U.S. elections.