Gov. Brown declares state of emergency due to threat of wildfire
August 19, 2020
Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, Aug. 19, due to the imminent threat of wildfire across Oregon.
Much of the state is now in extreme fire danger, and red flag warnings have been issued for hot, dry, windy conditions and dry thunderstorms.
“Oregon has experienced wildfires this season that have resulted in evacuations, threatened critical infrastructure, and destroyed homes and other structures,” according to a statement issued by the Governor's Office.
"The wildfire season has escalated in Oregon this summer, and fire crews are working in extreme temperatures to keep homes and resources safe during this pandemic," Brown said. "Given drought conditions and hotter than usual temperatures, Oregonians should be prepared for an intense wildfire season this summer. I'm committed to making state resources available to ensure crews have the resources they need on the ground and across the state. I urge the public to use extreme caution and be mindful of fire restrictions to protect the beauty and bounty of our state."
The extended forecast in Oregon calls for continued warm and dry conditions, resulting in the imminent threat of fire over a broad area of the state. Furthermore, Oregon continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, which adds complexity to wildland firefighting and operations to protect the health and safety of firefighters and Oregonians whose homes or businesses may be threatened by wildfire.”
While the region is expecting a slight reprieve from this past weekend’s heat wave, extreme fire danger is expected to continue through August. Fire officials say conditions on the ground remain tinder-dry and the slightest spark could ignite a wildfire and quickly spread out of control.
“We all need to do our part to prevent wildfires from starting throughout the year, but right now everyone needs to be extremely careful,” says Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty. “With the current conditions, just one spark, cigarette, or open flame could result in Oregon’s next wildfire. Preventing fires from starting helps protect our firefighters and communities from the health, safety, and economic impacts of wildfires and smoke.”
The ODF office in Sweet Home is moving its fire danger level to “high” as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
“We will most likely warm back up again after this short cool-down the next three days or so,” Wildland Fire Supervisor Neil Miller said. “There are many lightning-caused fire currently in Oregon that are testing our resources. We don't need any human-caused fires added to the mix.”
Pursuant to ORS 401.165 et seq, Brown determined that a threat to life, safety, and property exists due to the imminent threat of wildfire. The governor's declaration authorizes the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal, in coordination with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, to utilize personnel, equipment and facilities from other state agencies in order to respond to or mitigate the effects of the wildfire emergency.
The Oregon National Guard will deploy firefighting resources as needed and in accordance with Operations Agreement Smokey 2020 throughout the remainder of the fire season based upon threat and resource shortfalls. The Oregon Health Authority will continue to provide guidance and assist with mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at wildland fire facilities and camps, emergency shelters, and evacuation centers.
While awareness of the conditions paints part of the picture, fire officials are also reminding the public to adhere to fire restrictions that are in place in an effort to prevent human-caused wildfires. Common day-to-day activities like mowing dry grass, off-road driving and campfires are not allowed in most areas.
“Know before you go,” says Keep Oregon Green Association’s Kristin Babbs. “Either call ahead or log on to one of the many government agency, private land or commercial recreation websites that provide this valuable information.”
Homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts alike can contribute to the fire prevention campaign by reducing fire prone activities.
Outdoor debris burning remains prohibited throughout much of the region and campfires are either prohibited entirely or only allowed in designated campgrounds. While logging activity is being curtailed under these extreme conditions, many large industrial landowners have also closed their gates to public access in efforts to reduce possible ignitions from off-road driving, target shooting, smoking and campfires; all of which are illegal or restricted during fire season.
Should a fire occur close to communities, State Fire Marshal Jim Walker is urging homeowners to be prepared in case an evacuation is necessary. “A serious wildfire can come up in a moment’s notice, so residents need to prepare now in case they have to leave their home,” Walker said. “Make sure to put together a “Go Kit” and make a plan where your family will go and how you will stay in contact.” Find out more at http://www.wildlandfirersg.org .
To date, 2,412 fires have burned 48,665 acres in Oregon and Washington according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland. Nearly 2,000 fires have been human-caused. For additional information on fire prevention and restrictions in your area, please visit any of the websites below.