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Regional Interests

Oregon governor declares wildfire emergency

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency aimed at improving response to active and imminent wildfires across the state, and has invoked the state’s Emergency Conflagration Act late Wednesday morning to aid in response to a growing fire east of Mount Hood.

These steps comes after a fire in Central Oregon prompted evacuations and the closure of an airport in Redmond Tuesday, and a separate fire in Eastern Oregon put up to 100 residents of Wasco County under “go-now” evacuation orders.

Crippling heat, which has abated in Northwest Oregon but continues to stifle much of the state, has exacerbated a drought emergency across much of the state at a time when forecasts call for windy conditions and dry thunderstorms ahead.

“Oregon is still recovering from the devastation of last year’s wildfires, which resulted in nine Oregonians losing their lives and thousands more losing their homes,” Brown said in a statement issued to the media. “With wildfires already sparking this year, it is imperative that we act now to prevent further loss—of life, property, business, and our natural resources.”

The Redmond brush fire prompted Redmond firefighters to ask occupants of roughly 325 residential and commercial structures to evacuate on Tuesday, and threatened the personal property of homeless campers in the area, the Bend Bulletin reported.

In Wasco County, the wildfire east of Dufur grew to 10,000 acres overnight, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry. It was not clear as of Wednesday morning whether additional people would be evacuated, beyond the 100 or so who were asked to leave Tuesday afternoon.

That fire, dubbed the “Wrentham Market Fire,” prompted Brown’s invocation of the Oregon Emergency Conflagration Act, which allows the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment from other jurisdictions.

Brown’s broader state of emergency declaration is aimed at speeding the state’s overall wildfire response. If state and national resources are limited, the Oregon National Guard will also assist with firefighting, the governor’s office said.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting