Oregon Governor Kate Brown declared a wildfire emergency on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, after raging wildfires forced evacuations and burned through at least two towns. State officials said they've never seen conditions so conducive to destructive fires.
This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state, Brown said in a news conference on Tuesday afternoon (LT). "We do not have context for this amount of fire on the landscape," said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Strong wind gusts on Monday afternoon, September 7, gave new life to wildfires in central and eastern Marion County for weeks, creating what officials are now calling the Santiam Fire, OPB reports. The fire quickly swept through canyons west of the cascades, forcing evacuations in a number of communities east of Salem.
Elsewhere across the state, intensifying wildfires near Eugene, Ashland, and along the coast prompted evacuation orders in towns and state prisons.
Lane County officials said wildfires have caused 'catastrophic loss' in the town of Blue River where the Holiday Farm fire destroyed between 80 and 100 buildings.
Image credit: NOAA/GOES-17, RAMMB/CIRA. Acquired 16:50 UTC on September 8, 2020
When you combine strong winds, some of the driest conditions in decades and a cold front sweeping across the area, you have a supreme alignment for destructive wildfires, said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry.
"That's exactly what we've seen... Seeing them run down the canyons the way they have carrying tens of miles in one afternoon and not slowing down through the evening. There’s absolutely no context for this environment," Grafe said.
"Both Santiam and the Lionshead fires have together burned more than 200 000 acres [80 940 ha] so far and we’re seeing over 30 000 acres [12 140 ha] burned by the Holiday Farm fire. Thousands of Oregonians have been evacuated from their homes and many more are at risk," Gov. Brown said.
Featured image: Wildfires and smoke rising over Oregon and California at 19:40 UTC on September 8, 2020. Credit: NOAA/GOES-17, RAMMB/CIRA