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It’s ‘every firefighter on deck’ in Oregon this wildfire season, with a long way to go

Hand crew walks to engage the massive Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon
Hand crew walks to engage the massive Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon

Teams from Utah, California called in; National Guard already in support roles

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — As infernos continue to rage across Oregon, officials say that the state will need “every firefighter on deck” this wildfire season, having already tapped resources from other states, and strongly urged residents to be prepared and stay alert.

Currently, 5,000 firefighters are battling blazes in the state, including 2,000 working on the Bootleg Fire — the nation’s largest active wildfire that has grown to more than 388,000 acres, or 607 square miles.

“It is going to take every layer of our response system to keep Oregonians safe this season,” State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said during a news conference Tuesday.

Along with the exceedingly hot and dry conditions, Ruiz-Temple said that this wildfire season is historic, in terms of the amount of resources that have been deployed.

Fire officials say that while there are still some local crews and National Guard members available to help, teams from Utah and California have also been brought to Oregon.

“What we know in Oregon, in terms of structural protection and wildland, the amount of firefighters we have are not commensurate with the types and size of our fires,” Ruiz-Temple said. “We do rely on that complete coordinated system, not only within Oregon but around the nation.”

In addition, in the event that national resource availability diminishes as the fire season progresses, there are also international crews that could be sent to help – including from Australia and Canada.

“It’s shaping up to be another difficult wildfire season and unfortunately we are responding to new fires as we are still recovering from last year’s devastating fire season,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “The good news is, there is still a lot of excellent work happening on the ground to protect Oregonians, our homes and our land.”

Gov. Kate Brown noted at a wildfire briefing with state officials Tuesday that there are now nine large fires burning around the state, with “no corner of the state immune to fire” and 19 counties in official drought emergencies.

“As many as 80% of fires in Oregon are human-caused,” Brown said. “We can prevent so much tragic loss by being careful and fire-wise.”

The governor urged Oregonians to make a plan with their families in case a wildfire threatens and to sign up for emergency alerts (that and other resources are available at .

“Get ‘Two Weeks Ready,’” in terms of needed supplies, Brown said, “and when asked to evacuate, please – just do it.”

Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry, noted that 90 percent of the state is in drought levels labeled as severe, extreme or exceptional, and the “heat dome” of late June only dried out the fuels further.

He noted that the largest of last year's destructive fires, Lionshead, burned a total of 204,000 acres -- and the Bootleg Fire is close to double that acreage already, and could grow another 50,000 to 100,000 acres on the troublesome east side.

With a forecast of above-normal temperatures and continued lack of significant rainfall, Grafe warned that dangerous fire conditions are “not going to get better any time soon.”

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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The Associated Press

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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