Gov. Kate Brown today described the wildfires that have consumed 300,000 acres of Oregon as wreaking unprecedented devastation. "This could be the greatest loss of human [life] and property due to wildfire in our state's history," she said.
Brown told press that as of noon Wednesday, 35 active fires are burning in the state. They have destroyed large portions of the towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vita, Phoenix and Talent.
"Hundreds of homes have been lost and we continue to carry out mass evacuations across the entire state," Brown declared. If those statements were not troubling enough, Brown also said that in places where there are not yet fires, incident management teams are seeing "the worst fire conditions in three decades."
Doug Grafe, the chief of fire protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry, added that the mixture of "impressive high winds," a cold front, and a critically dry ecosystem is leading to these "unprecedented times." "No area all over the state is safe from fires," Grafe stated, adding there is "zero percent containment all over the state."
Mariana Ruiz-Temple, chief deputy state fire marshal, expects numbers of the missing or deceased to come in the next few days.
While downed power lines in high winds have reportedly caused some of the fires, the cause of many fires are still under investigation.
"Call 911 to report a fire. Don't call 911 just to report smoke. There's smoke everywhere and our 911 system is being inundated with smoke calls," said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
Grafe offered one note of hope: Winds are expected to subside and "today marks the last day we are experiencing this historic weather event."
Brown warned Oregonians to be prepared to flee. "If you are in a community where an evacuation order is issued, please respond," she said. "You may not get a second chance."