REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Fire Press Briefing
September 9, 2020
I’m here to give you the latest updates on the urgent fire situation evolving across our state.
I’m joined on the phone by
● Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Chief, Doug Grafe
● Oregon Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal, Mariana Ruiz-Temple
● Major General Michael Stencel, and
● Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director, Andrew Phelps.
I’m joined in person with Gabriela Goldfarb of the Oregon Health Authority.
Let me start by bracing you all for some very difficult news.
We are currently facing a statewide fire emergency. Over the last 24 hours, Oregon has experienced unprecedented fire, with significant damage and devastating consequences across the state.
I want to be upfront in saying that we expect to see a great deal of loss, both in structures and human lives. This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.
Early reports indicate that the towns of Detroit in central Oregon, Blue River and Vida in Lane County, and Phoenix and Talent in Southern Oregon, are substantially destroyed.
Hundreds of homes have been lost, and we continue to carry out mass evacuations across the state.
Fortunately, numerous Oregonians have been rescued from harm’s way, including even pulling people seeking safety in rivers. But many more Oregonians will need to evacuate their homes in the coming hours to ensure their safety.
We currently have five incident management teams out in the field fighting 35 fires. Multiple smaller fires continue to erupt across the state, adding to this crisis.
And we are not getting any relief from weather conditions. Winds continue to feed these fires and push them into our towns and cities.
Right now, more than 300,000 acres are burning across the state, which is the equivalent of over 500 square miles. In some parts of the state that are not yet burning, the worst fire conditions in decades persist -- dry air, dry brush, and hot winds.
This means everyone must be on high alert.
This is the first time I have invoked a fire conflagration act for the entire state. This act gives the State Fire Marshal the power to direct and deploy state resources anywhere needed. This morning, I also directed the Office of Emergency Management to request a federal emergency declaration. That assistance request will free up federal resources to support our response efforts, including power generation capabilities, search and rescue, mortuary assistance and more.
Our number one priority right now is saving lives. As such, our statewide strategy is focused on life safety, evacuation, and protecting structures where possible.
Heroic firefighters, National Guard members, and Red Cross volunteers are working around the clock to evacuate Oregonians from the path of these fires and provide food and shelter for evacuees.
Many of these volunteers and firefighters are from affected areas themselves and needed to evacuate their families, on top of providing help to others.
This is an all hands on deck moment for Oregon. The next several days are going to be extraordinarily difficult.
If you hear only one thing today, hear this: Please pay attention to the directions from firefighters, local officials and emergency responders.
If you are asked to evacuate, do so immediately.
Your choices -- to evacuate, to help others to safety -- will save lives, including possibly your own.
We as Oregonians always rise in moments of crisis. We are in the midst of one crisis right now.
And I know that by working together, we will come through this.
Please take care of yourselves, and each other. With that, I will turn it over to Doug Grafe.