One Meteorologist Tries to Explain Why Oregon Caught Fire Overnight

This state has rarely seen a wind event like the one that occurred Sept. 7.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

The Tillamook Burn—a series of devastating wildfires that spanned 18 years—charred 350,000 acres of Oregon Coastal Range forest. Most of that damage happened over less than two weeks in 1933.

The fires sweeping Oregon this week have nearly matched that destruction in just three days.

How does 340,000 acres of land burn that fast? Dan Miller blames the wind.

Miller, the science and operations officer for the National Weather Service office in Portland, says the conditions in Oregon were unusually dry—we had plenty of tinder to light. But this state has rarely seen a wind event like the one that occurred Sept. 7. It toppled live power lines and swept flaming embers from treetop to treetop, sending firefighters in a dash for their own safety.

It will take at least another another week to get the fires under control, and perhaps even longer to tally the physical and human toll in the remote canyons surrounding towns like Detroit and Talent.

But WW editor and publisher Mark Zusman asked Miller to explain what triggered the perfect firestorm. In this video, he does.