Oregon Rep. Rick Lewis visited Molalla Fire on Wednesday, July 21, to announce that the department would receive $385,000 in federal funding for wildland fire support.
Molalla's Lt. Byron Wakefield had requested the money for help purchasing a type 3 wildland interface engine. The request came in after applications were due, according to Lewis, but the Legislature offered a late last chance to submit, and the request was approved. The bill including the funding is on Gov. Kate Brown's desk awaiting her signature.
"We would like to thank you for championing our request," Fire Board President Mike Towner told Lewis. "We sure appreciate that."
The likely one-time funds come thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act. Lewis said most requests that were approved were for wildland recovery efforts. So this request, focusing on future wildfire mitigation, is a rare win.
"It was kind of a surprise that this one actually got funded," Lewis said. "But I'm happy."
A type 3 rig is a large truck that carries more water — up to 750 gallons — and pumps it out faster, according to Molalla Fire board member Todd Gary. It's a four-wheel-drive vehicle that can be used to fight residential or wildland fires.
"The need became apparent during last year's fires," Wakefield said, "when we were fighting fires in our own district."
The vehicle may prove more necessary than ever as the state faces another historic fire season.
ARPA funds help small communities
Lewis has been busy announcing funding awards as of late. The city of Molalla also is receiving $500,000 for a pedestrian and bike path at Molalla Forest Road, Lewis said.
The city of Aurora is getting funding for a water well plus $14 million for other water projects. The city of Mount Angel will receive $500,000 for wastewater line expansion, and the city of Silverton is getting $500,000 to assist with a new city hall and police facility. These large awards come along with many other smaller amounts for various projects in small-town Oregon.
"It's good to be able to do it," Lewis said of announcing the funding awards. "There's so many times where, you know, the money is so competitive, especially with Portland because Portland gets the lion's share of the funding. And so for the smaller communities, it becomes very difficult to get any of the money. … So this (American Rescue Plan Act and associated bills) was an opportunity to get something done for small communities."
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