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OSU research shows multiple ways wildfire survivors struggle

Oregon State University
Aerial view of Detroit, Oregon after 2020 wildfires.

While it’s been 16 months since the historic Labor Day fires burned through Oregon, many lingering and often troubling effects have been shared by residents.

80 people responded to an Oregon State University survey that focused on the Santiam Canyon area where 700 people lost homes, but only 13% have since moved into permanent housing.

Marc Braverman is the principal investigator for the report.

“The impact with regard to mental health was the greatest,” he told KLCC. “It was the most frequently mentioned and it took many forms: depression, anxiety, people were displaced.”

Oregon State University
A burned fire truck in Detroit, Oregon after the 2020 fires.

“There need to be more mental health providers in Santiam County region. The hospital there and the providers that are there are just completely overworked. So it it were possible, state or county agencies to provide more support in that regard, it would be extremely beneficial.”

Braverman added many respondents are also worried about toxins that may have been left in the wildfires’ wake, and suggested more could be done to detect and remove hazardous materials from the sites of destroyed buildings.

Braverman said streamlining the rebuilding process for destroyed homes would also be important.

Among the other long-term findings were residents reporting breathing problems. Before the 2020 wildfires, 28% said they experienced issues. That number jumped to 55% after the fires.

The OSU study focused on Santiam Canyon because Marion County had community development block grant funding.

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Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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