As the wildfire east of Salem continues to subside, firefighters have a better grip on the extent of the damage and the potential for further damage in the future. Firefighters are seeing reason for optimism after a fire broke out in Salem, forcing thousands from their homes and setting hundreds of buildings ablaze.
About 3,000 firefighters are battling wildfires across Oregon, and authorities say twice as many are needed to contain the wildfires. At least 36 active fires are burning, the state's Disaster Management Office said. Up to three times as many firefighters were battling the blaze, which claimed 37 lives and affected more than 1,500 people by Thursday, many of them in the Salem area and other parts of central and eastern Oregon counties.
The fire started in Marion and Clackamas counties and has scorched more than 300,000 acres of land, said Mike O'Brien, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fire and Disaster Management. The Eagle Creek Fire is not the largest wildfire in Oregon at the moment, but it stands out because downtown Portland is much better protected. That's one of the reasons There was no major damage in the historic downtown area of the city, and there are no reports of serious injuries or deaths from the fire, according to Oregon State Police.
While Vancouver, British Columbia, is also battling a wildfire, Portland, Oregon, has a much smaller population and a much smaller fire area than Vancouver. Large parts of western Oregon are suffering from the threat of wildfires, while Portland has 1,000 acres of fire protection in downtown.
Meanwhile, an air quality monitoring website listed Portland, Oregon, as the worst in the world on Friday, the Oregon Times reported. Smoke has engulfed Oregon in the past week, leaving much of the state with an extremely unhealthy and dangerous air quality assessment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Oregon Department of Health and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released data in recent weeks that showed record levels of air quality in Portland and Eugene and Bend that climbed to an all-time high of 1.5 parts per million, the highest level in more than a decade.
The dashboard of the Oregon wildfire shows that two people were killed and four injured. The Oregon RAPTOR map shows the number of fires and hotspots across the state, as well as the location of the largest fires. To help families, friends, and loved ones of wildfires in the US West understand the state of play in the fire states, Newsweek has produced the guide below that covers major fire incidents, as confirmed by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC). The group collected data from the Oregon Department of Public Health and Human Services (ODPHS).
The fire is also suspected of causing at least one death in Ashland, said Chris Gossett, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Health. The body was found Wednesday night, he told the Oregon Journal, and it was likely the result of a fire that also reportedly caused at least one death in Ashland.
Portland Fire Department officials say Gossett sees no problem with one of their own, which is affiliated with the state hospital, being classified as pyromaniac.
According to the New York Times, five million acres burned in California, Oregon and Washington during the 2020 fire season. At least four large fires have burned in Multnomah County, a Portland suburb of Oregon. Oregon authorities have not released an exact death toll from the wildfires, but at least eight deaths have been reported in the state. More than half a million acres have burned since the start of the year, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
According to the US Bureau of Land Management, human-caused wildfires cause more than one-third of all wildfires in the United States. While Washington and Oregon states are experiencing intense wildfire activity, fires are burning in other parts of the country, including California, Oregon and Washington.
There have also been violent protests and riots, and Portland Fire Department Chief Sara Boone, who is African-American, said there was anger and violence after the fire on Almeda Drive destroyed the city of Phoenix, Oregon. Many other businesses in the Portland area were damaged, including one where a single window was smashed and the ground around it was devastated.
The exact extent of the damage is unclear because so many fire areas are too dangerous to survey and the cause of the Oregon fire is still under investigation, he said. In three previous lawsuits, it has been alleged that PacifiCorp set its distribution lines in motion in response to weather forecasts that require extremely dry and windy conditions that could be the source of the Santiam Canyon fire.
A similar lawsuit has been filed by victims of wildfires in Santiam Canyon against utilities in Oregon, and others could follow, according to the Oregon attorney general's office. The fire was blamed on the supplier's failure to maintain its transmission lines and a lack of adequate training for its staff.