PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Gov. Kate Brown has asked President Donald Trump to declare a ‘Major Disaster’ in the state of Oregon, she announced during a press conference on Monday.
The governor gave a variety of updates about wildfires raging across the state during the press conference, including confirming 10 Oregonians have died so far.
“I am at a loss for words over these deaths,” she said.
The deaths were confirmed by the Oregon State Medical Examiner confirmed, she said, and local medical examiners will continue to report deaths as they are discovered.
She also announced the creation of a new fund in partnership with the Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial trust and Oregon Community Foundation to “help plan for what comes next.” Contributions will focus on short-term and long-term recovery.
She also said she is aware of how the fires disproportionally affect communities around the state, saying she ordered 250,000 N95 masks for agriculture workers and impacted tribes.
Full press conference below:
“The only way out of this crisis is through it, and we’ll only get through it together,” she said.
Brown said she is hopeful that cooler weather coming towards the end of the week will “be a tremendous help.”
Doug Grafe from the Oregon Department of Forestry spoke at the press conference, saying we are past the “east wind fire event” and that crews have made great progress.
“The next 5 days through this week, we continue to have a westerly flow which brings cooler temperatures and higher humidity, which is favorable,” he said.
Grafe said increased winds in central and southern Oregon will present challenges.
He said the latest forecast puts rain out in Wednesday and Thursday, and that rain may come with lightening and thunderstorms on the east side of the state, which could cause new fire starts.
“Kind of a mixed bag related to the weather,” he said.
He asked the public to keep drones on the ground in order to keep airspace clear for firefighting aviation.
Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple said they are starting to look towards recovery.
“The majority of the structural protection we feel good about,” she said.
“Essentially every state has some sort of response to the state of Oregon and we can’t thank them enough,” she said.
Adjutant General of the Oregon National Guard Major General Michael Stencel said 700 soldiers and airmen have been mobilized and he expects that number to reach 1000 by the end of week. He said there a total of 11 aircraft available.
Director Andrew Phelps of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said that given the complexity, the severity and the geographic scope, they are working to deconflict various numbers of the dead and missing.
“We need to ensure we are providing a clear statewide picture of what we know,” he said.
Phelps said local law enforcement working to confirm fatalities and to inform families. The current number of confirmed fatalities is 10.
He said the current accurate number of missing people associated with the fires is 22. People should report missing people to the local law enforcement where the fire occurred.
Phelps also addressed various rumors since the wildfires started.
“Rumors can cost lives,” he said, adding that people should rely on low enforcement and local media for information.
Gabriela Goldfarb with the Oregon Health Authority also spoke at the press conference, saying some wildfire smoke inhalation symptoms can overlap with those of COVID-19 symptoms. She urged anyone with unusual symptoms to use the CDC symptom checker or call their healthcare provider.
So far, the wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres in Oregon — a size larger than the entire state of Rhode Island — and forced about 40,000 people to flee.