PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Governor Kate Brown said Thursday that thorough investigations will take place this week to look into how the wildfires across the state started.
“There have been obviously some reports, and I saw it with my eyes yesterday, that at least some or parts of the fires in the state were started by downed electrical lines. In the coming days, coming weeks, there will be thorough investigations to determine the exact cause of these fires, including any role that downed power lines may have played as well as any responsibility that utilities may bear.”
She was optimistic when speaking about containment lines on may fire fronts across the state.
“They are making significant progress on some of the containment,” she said. She said forecasts for rain “will bring welcome moisture.”
She recalled visiting the fire line on Wednesday, where she saw destruction first hand.
“Yesterday I traveled to the front line of the Beachie Creek Fire, where the damage from the fire is all encompassing and shocking,” she said.
She said she learned that the majority of the firefighters there were volunteer community members.
“I know that we have a really long road ahead, but time and time again I am certainly in awe of the people doing everything and anything to hep their fellow Oregonians,” she said.
Fire Chief Doug Grafe also provided an update during the Thursday press conference, saying good progress had been made on many of the fires.
“We’re expecting some widespread moisture, which is good news for Oregon,” he said.
He warned of winds and lightening strikes which could be problematic. He also said debris flow can also present a challenge.
Following the storm, temperatures are forecasted to be cooler.
“All-in-all this is a good forecast,” he said.
Adjutant General Michael Stencel with the Oregon National Guard said 1,261 guardsman were currently on status. He expected that number to grow by more than 50 in the coming days.
Andrew Phelps with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management urged those still under Level 3 evacuation not to return until permitted.
“We still have thousands of Oregonians under some level of evacuation notice, many still have not been able to return to their homes,” Phelps said.
“Wherever you are in the state, please stay weather-aware,” he said, cautioning of a flash flood warning in some spots.
Phelps said the confirmed fatality number remains at 8.
Gabriela Goldfarb with the Oregon Health Authority said there was good news in terms of air quality, where the coast is already seeing good air quality and that should spread inland starting Thursday evening. There are some exceptions like places near large fires and southern Oregon where smoke from California is seeping in.
Officially there are 26 active wildfires in the state that have burned about 1 million acres — an area larger than the entire state of Rhode Island.
Oregon Department of Transportation’s Kris Strickler said 240 miles of highways are currently closed across the state, though most are open for critical service.
“It may be many months or even a year before some roads reopen,” Strickler said. He spoke about the various levels of repairs needed across state roads.
“I ask for your patience as we continue to work through and get these roads open,” he said.
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