UPDATE: On Sunday, Feb. 14 the Oregon Legislature announced that all hearings on Monday, Feb. 15 and Tuesday, Feb. 16 would be postponed due to extensive power outages and ice storm damage in Salem. The wildfire hearings are now scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17 and Monday, Feb. 22.
Oregon lawmakers in charge of guiding the legislature’s response to last fall’s wildfires are seeking input in the form of a series of public hearings.
The House and Senate Special Committees on Wildfire Recovery have scheduled six hours of online testimony over two nights: Monday, Feb. 15 and Wednesday, Feb. 17, starting at 5:30 p.m. both days.
As with all committee hearings at the legislature so far this session, the wildfire hearings will be held "remotely." The committees are also accepting written testimony.
Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, who chairs the House Wildfire Recovery Committee, said he knows the two nights of online testimony will only scratch the surface.
“I’m hopeful that we can get real input, but you know, if it weren’t COVID we’d be in whatever the biggest gathering point you could get, a school gym or an armory," he said. "We’d have this big, huge town-hall style meeting.”
Clem said lawmakers want to hear directly from people in the fire zones to see what challenges remain months after the flames were extinguished.
"After the smoke clears, everybody else remembers, but turns their attention to COVID or their own jobs," he said. "But these folks are still having debris cleared, still getting their foundations raised, they're still getting hazardous materials removed. Then they need to be able to rebuild."
Clem said the wildfire recovery panel will continue its work past the 2021 session, and he said there will be future opportunities for public testimony.
"We just want to build that relationship so that they know we're going to support them over the next five years," he said. "Not one year. Not two years."