OREGON (July 21, 2021)– Gov. Kate Brown, the state fire marshal and director of emergency management briefed the public on Oregon’s response to a “historic” start to wildfire season Tuesday, citing drought emergencies in 19 counties so far with more expected.
They spoke as the Bootleg fire has already scorched nearly 390,000 acres in Lake and Klamath counties. It was just one of several large fires burning around the state and the nation’s largest so far this year.
“It’s mid-July and already nearly 450,000 acres have burned across the state,” Brown said. “It’s shaping up to be another difficult wildfire season and unfortunately we’re responding to new fires as we’re still recovering from last year’s devastating wildfire season.”
It’s been only about 10 months since the Labor Day windstorm spawned fires across the state and whipped existing ones into conflagrations. At least eight people died in the resulting blazes, thousands of homes were destroyed and more than 1 million acres were left scorched.
“The drought conditions across Oregon are really driving the fire potential,” said Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection with the Oregon Department of Forestry. “It really is the foundation of why we’re at where we’re at today.”
Grafe noted the largest fire last year, the Lionshead fire, burned about 204,000 acres, or just over half of the acreage consumed by the Bootleg fire so far. Mariana Ruiz-Temple, the state fire marshal, said the early onset of this year’s fire season has been “historic.”
People should familiarize themselves with the state’s three-tiered evacuation system and have an emergency kit ready to go if they need to leave their homes in a hurry, he said.
Most importantly, though, Phelps said people should trust their instincts when it comes to their personal wellbeing.