After devastating wildfire seasons, money is starting to pour in to help Oregon’s often overwhelmed fire departments.
The alarm goes out, and Mount Angel is one of the fire departments that works with other agencies in Marion County, fighting major fires across the Willamette Valley.
This year they’re getting a welcome boost: they’re one of the 160 fire departments awarded $35,000 grants, after the state decided to invest $6 million extra this year. It’s from Senate Bill 762, which lawmakers passed after Oregon’s nightmare 2020 fire season.
More help could soon come from the feds. Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are calling on Congress to quickly start salary increases already passed for wildland firefighters, by up to $20,000 per year. It’s a requirement of the recent bipartisan infrastructure law. Congress included $600 million in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to increase federal wildland firefighter salaries. The law specifically set a 180-day timeline for the development of a distinct “wildland firefighter” occupational series with a pay scale recognizing their lifesaving work. The implementation of these provisions is now one-month overdue.