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A Year After the 2020 Wildfires: Reflecting and Looking Ahead

The 2020 Labor Day Wildfires were the most destructive in state history, claiming nine lives, 4,000 homes and businesses and burning more than 1 million acres. A year after the fires, community leaders, recovery specialists and ODOT leadership reflect on what was lost, what has been accomplished and what comes next for recovery in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley.

In the spirit of reflection, finding solutions and overcoming challenges has been at the center of this work. With no playbook readily available at the time — and knowing that no pace would ever be fast enough — standing up an emergency response operation in a matter of weeks required flexibility and acceptance that changes would be necessary along the way. Local government officials with the Cities of Talent, Phoenix, Ashland and Medford along with Jackson County partnered together to streamline recovery efforts. Local community-based organizations have led the way in ensuring community voices are heard and support is distributed broadly as we work to rebuild. We will further feature some of the grassroots organizational support efforts in a future video.

As we wrap up work from 2020, we want to sincerely thank Oregon for your collaboration, grit and resilient spirit. With you, this work has helped reopen schools, summer camps, local businesses, fish hatcheries and recreation areas. It’s cleared the way for rebuilding new lives and housing options. It’s kept highways open and free of falling trees and other debris while providing wood for habitat, conservation projects and energy programs. Cleanup work has strived to equitably provide Oregon jobs while ultimately ensuring that no more lives are lost to the 2020 wildfires.

Recovery does not happen overnight and there is a still massive lift ahead to build our communities back.

The words of Talent City Manager, Jordan Rooklyn, should be taken in stride: “Don’t learn from us, learn with us.”

Below are some partner agencies and local organizations helping to lead the way for long-term recovery in the Rogue Valley:



Wildfire waste and debris removal

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to remove hazardous waste, and ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistance.

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