Brown on wildfires: 'Climate change playing out before our eyes'

Brown on wildfires: 'Climate change playing out before our eyes'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown held a press conference on Tuesday morning to give updates about multiple wildfires burning across the state.

She thanked firefighters and the numerous agencies working hard to contain the blazes.

“The good news is there’s a lot of excellent work happening on the ground to protect Oregonians, to protect our homes, and our land,” she said.

She also blamed climate change for the destructive fires and said she is working on legislation for climate action.

Doug Grafe, Chief of Fire Protection, Oregon Department of Forestry, blamed the drought for the extreme start to the fire season.

“Drought conditions across Oregon is driving fire potential,” Doug Grafe said.

He said the fires have already burned 17 times the 10 year average of acres burned on ODF protected lands.

OEM Director Andrew Phelps encouraged all Oregonians to be prepared now.

“Have a plan for how you are going to evacuate your home and your neighborhood,” he said. “Know the evacuation routes in your community.”

FEMA chief Deanne Criswell is slated to visit Oregon on Thursday to review wildfire planning and response in the state. The visit is part of a wider tour of wildfire-impacted areas in Washington, Idaho and California this week.

On Monday, the Bootleg Fire hit more than 343,000 acres, becoming one of Oregon’s largest wildfires in modern state history. It’s estimated to be at 25% containment and spans from Klamath to Lake County. The inferno is so large, smoke and heat from the blaze are creating “fire clouds” that can reach up to 6 miles in the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles away, creating dangerous conditions that have resulted in crews being pulled from the frontlines.

Meanwhile, the state’s next largest active wildfire, the Jack Fire, is currently at 50% containment, while the third-largest, the Elbow Creek Fire, is at more than 16,000 acres, with about 10% containment.

The wildfires hitting across the U.S. West, resources are starting to become stretched, according to the Northwest Interagency Center, which coordinates firefights for large uncontained fires in the region. Amid historic drought conditions, wildfires are 15 times larger this July than they were this time last year, officials with the Northwest Interagency Center told KOIN 6 News last week.

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