Preparing for wildfires: ‘Plan on being a disaster survivor’

Wildfires

Officials say this wildfire season could be even worse than last year

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Leaders of state agencies in Oregon are preparing for the upcoming wildfire season.

During a press conference Thursday, wildfire managers and disaster response officials shared their plans for coordinated wildfire response. Representatives from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Office of Emergency Management, and Department of Environmental Quality attended.

“These types of fires are not the types of fires we saw maybe 20 or 30 years ago,” Mariana Ruiz-Temple, State Fire Marshal, Office of the State Fire Marshal said.

Doug Grafe, Fire Protection Division Chief, Oregon Department of Forestry said that aggressive initial attacks are part of their main strategy. He also said there is a big focus on fire prevention this year.

Grafe said that last year’s fires were unprecedented and an alignment of forces. He’s hoping for less dry conditions this year.

“Keeping our fingers crossed for more moisture,” Grafe said.

Andrew Phelps, Director, Oregon Office of Emergency Management called the fire outlook “bleak” and encouraged Oregonians to be prepared.

“I am asking every Oregonian to plan on being a disaster survivor… there are things we can do to ensure we have supplies that we need at home, when we’re traveling, when we’re at home, when we’re at school or at work,” Phelps said.

One wildfire has already broken out this year — sparking near The Dalles on Wednesday afternoon. Wind and dry conditions fanned the fast-moving flames, prompting evacuations and shutting down major highways in the area.

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Stan Hinatsu said the so-called “Milepost 85 Fire” was driven by a strong west wind. The fire started near I-84 and jumped over the road, burning swiftly toward the Google Data Center.

“It burned right up to the actual pavement around the center there,” explained Hinatsu.

By Wednesday night, the fire was estimated to be 70% contained. The cause is under investigation.

Hinatsu said Oregon experienced one of its driest Aprils and Mays on record and the Milepost 85 Fire could be the start of a tough fire season.

“This is a little bit early to have a fire of this nature to do what it did and that doesn’t bode well for the coming fire season,” he said.

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