“Over the last 24 hours, Oregon has experienced unprecedented fire with significant damage.” That was how Gov. Kate Brown formally announced what had already become apparent to most residents. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” she added, even more bluntly.
Brown went on to say that the towns of Detroit sitting east of Salem, Blue River and Vida east of Eugene-Springfield, and Phoenix and Talent in southwestern Oregon have been substantially destroyed, and that communities on alert for possible evacuation would have to remain ready to move.
She added diplomatically that she hoped for federal action to free up federal resources to support our response efforts, avoiding mention of how federal resources have been withheld from majority-Democrat areas of the country in recent months.
More than 300,000 acres of Oregon land are aflame as a result of low humidity and abnormally high winds, yet another consequence of global climate change. The five teams fighting the largest 35 fires are hard at work, but smaller fires continue to ignite. Under these conditions, efforts to save forest land or even buildings have to be put aside.
“Our number one priority right now is saving lives,” Brown said.
Both of Oregon’s Senators and all five Representatives jointly appealed to the White House for a declaration of a State of Emergency: “Given the severity and speed in which these fires are spreading across the state, we urge you to expedite the declaration process to ensure that local communities have the resources they need to respond to and recover quickly from these devastating wildfires.”
Mariana Ruiz-Temple, deputy chief state fire marshal, said in a Wednesday news conference that evacuation orders might be issued anywhere, at any time: “At this time in Western Oregon, and in fact anywhere in the state, all individuals should be really prepared at a minute’s notice,”