Governor Brown visits Almeda Fire debris cleanup site
On her tour of Jackson County on Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown visited Mountain View Estates in Talent, Oregon, one of the sites being cleaned by the Debris Management Task Force (DMTF). With 144 homes lost, Mountain View Estates - a 55 and older community -was one of the largest mobile home parks in the state devastated by the September 2020 wildfires. The entire estate property has been cleared of ash and debris and hazard trees have been removed. Final preparations are underway to provide the property owner authorization to safely rebuild and welcome previous residents back into the community.
Representatives from DMTF partner agencies included the Oregon Departments of Transportation (ODOT),Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM),as well as Jackson County, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).Officials were on-site to give an update on progress in the Almeda Fire area, where nearly 150,000 tons of ash and debris have been removed and 1,189 homes sites of the 1,705 enrolled in the state cleanup program have been cleared.
Approximately two-thirds of all homes lost in the 2020 Labor Day wildfires occurred within the Almeda Drive Fire corridor, with more than 2,400 residential structures and almost 200 commercial structures destroyed.
Governor Brown visited shortly after the Almeda Fire devastated the area and she recalled seeing the immediate devastation to the Rogue Valley communities.
“I toured the parks last fall,” Governor Brown said. “It looked like a hell of a lot of work. It is a remarkable story how state, federal and local agencies came together to take on this huge undertaking.”
21 homes in Mountain View Estates survived the fire and most of these residents remained living in their homes throughout cleanup of neighboring home sites. Joan Williamson, a resident of Mountain View Estates whose home was saved, spoke of her experience watching DMTF crews complete cleanup work.
“The way they conduct themselves when they're on the property, how friendly they are to us, it just makes you feel really, really proud to be an Oregonian,” Williamson said of the cleanup crews.
Judy and Tony Baalman, whose home was lost, spoke of the progress they’ve seen as they periodically visited the site for a first-hand account of the cleanup.
“It’s been flawless since Day one,” Judy Baalman said.
Accompanied by ODOT Director Kris Strickler, DMTF South Operations Chief Jerry Marmon spoke about the progress and timeline for cleanup in the Rogue Valley, including the 20 crews and 50-60 dump trucks actively performing cleanup in the communities.
“We’re very pleased with the pace our crews have been able to achieve” Marmon said. “To have cleanup completed statewide will take anywhere from 6-18 months. However, ash and debris work in this area could take closer to the six-month mark based on progress made so far.”
Follow along with the latest updates on the state-managed cleanup efforts and hear from survivors on the road to recovery at DebrisCleanupNews.com.