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Senator Merkley brainstorms wildfire tactics and solutions with local agencies

(KTVL/ Kimberly Kolliner)

The fight against fire season has all hands on deck including Senator Jeff Merkley.

The senator was in town Tuesday at the Joint Information Center in Grants Pass to get feedback from our local firefighting agencies who about even more fire growth these next few days.

"None of its good news. Hopefully our forecast is wrong. I don't usually want our forecast to be wrong," said Ryan Sandler, from the National Weather Service.

Bad fire weather in the forecast has a room full of firefighters on edge.

"Now we're into mid-August, this is climatologically the peak of fire season. The bad news is we're expecting some lightening," said Sandler.

Lightning is what caused dozens of wildfires in our region already and what's responsible for those hazy smoky skies our lungs can't get used to.

"Our hospitals have been full with people that have both heart and lung issues that are impacted by the smoke," said Lily Morgan, the Josephine County Commissioner.

Senator Merkley says he feels for this and for the livelihood of Oregon.

"It also has a huge impact on the economy both directly in terms of the the tourism industry being shut down and it has an impact in the long term, whether folks who are relocating say hey this is part of the country I want to move to," said Senator Merkley.

When and how to stop this fire is something commissioner Morgan thinks should be strategized like it was before.

"Well in past years we had a lot more logging industries and road systems throughout both the forest service and BLM areas," said Morgan.

Less fuels means better access and less ground to cover for firefighters already stretched thin.

"A lot of these crews that are out there right now have been going back to back on assignments so they've been working 16 hour days then they get eight hours off then they go right back at it again," said Dave Larson, District Forester for Oregon Department of Forestry.

More resources and more importantly a more long-term solution is what Senator Merkley is after.

"All of us have to come together across party lines in every which way to recognize that the carbon pollution that's driving the hotter planet is really the driver behind all of this," said Senator Merkley.

As far as immediate action goes, Senator Merkley working with Senator Ron Wyden secured $7 million in the 2018 spending bill to help with the wildfire training of National Guardsmen, 375 of which made it to the fire lines to help this season.

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