Gov. Kate Brown's office today confirmed 10 deaths and 22 people missing amid Oregon's catastrophic wildfires.
The state is reeling. Brown said the death toll and missing person count are expected to grow. Almost a million acres of land have burned in a week. Tens of thousands of Oregonians are displaced and countless structures destroyed.
"It's really hard for all of us to wrap our heads around the devastation that these fires have caused, and the pain and the suffering that so many Oregonians have endured over the past few days," Brown said in a press conference this afternoon.
State officials said the road back from disaster would be long.
"This is going to be a long-duration recovery operation for our state," said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
On top of this, the weather report for the rest of the week is a "mixed bag," according to Oregon Deputy Fire Chief Doug Grafe. On the one hand, "We are past the east wind weather event that put us on the landscape," and the forecast shows "a westerly flow which brings cooler temperatures." However, winds are increasing around fires in south Central Oregon, rain is delayed until Wednesday, and thunder and lightning storms are expected—"which could cause new fire starts."
"Kind of a mixed bag today relative to the weather," Grafe said. "But overall compared to what we dealt with with the east winds, this gives us a lot of opportunity to make good progress."
Some of the best progress has been made fighting the Almeda, Archie Creek and Holiday Farm fires. The 242, Thielsen and South Obenchain fires, and the east side of the Lionshead Fire on the Warm Springs Reservation continue to be the most worrisome.
On Friday, Grafe said he wanted to double the firefighting crew size from 3,000 to 6,000. The state has just about done that, with around 5,600 crew members as of today and more being added. Oregon has deployed 700 National Guard members, and that number will be 1,000 before the end of the week. The governor sent a letter to President Trump to declare a major disaster in Oregon, and the National Guard is working to deploy a quarter-million N95 masks to people who live in the heavily smoked-out areas.
The state is also setting up what it calls the "2020 Community Rebuild Fund," with the help of the Ford Family Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, and the Oregon Community Foundation, to "help plan for what comes next."
In today's media briefing, authorities were careful to clear up two issues that have come up over the past few days as people deal with these once-in-a-generation fires. First, Grafe pleaded for people not to fly drones in affected areas, saying that doing so makes it difficult to fly firefighting aircraft.
Second, Gabriela Goldfarb with the Oregon Health Authority commented on people experiencing health issues with the smoke. "There is some overlap between COVID-19 and wildfire smoke symptoms, such as cough, difficulty breathing and headaches," Goldfarb said. "But smoke impacts don't typically include fever, chills or diarrhea."
Once again, Gov. Brown voiced concern for the future of Oregon amid a changing climate, as well as a call to action to lawmakers across the country.
"I think there's absolutely no question that these fires raging across the west are a wake-up call that we have to address climate change," Brown said. "I would make a call out for work at the local level, at the state level, and to the White House at the federal level to take action on climate change."