Oregon Is Prepared For An Increased Fire Risk Due To Warmer Temperatures And Stronger Winds.

Oregon’s wildfire season has become worse this week, with evacuations, smokey skies, canceled schools, and hundreds of thousands of acres blazing. Regional highlights:

Wildfire risk is high this weekend. Fire authorities and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned Thursday about the weekend’s weather.

Travis Medema, chief deputy state fire marshal, said dry winds, low humidity, and instability all lead to catastrophic fire growth. “We’re worried about the next 72 hours, both in terms of new flames and major landscape fires.”

Medema reported that 360 residences are evacuated due to wildfires in the state. Over 100 residences are evacuated near Joseph, Oregon, due to the Double Creek Fire, which has burned over 100,000 acres near Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The Van Meter Fire, 13 miles southeast of Klamath Falls, has forced the evacuation of 260 residences in Klamath County. Medema said Wednesday’s fire “developed quickly.”

Many fire agencies left the Rum Creek Fire in Josephine County, which is stabilizing, Medema said.

More Than 42,000 Clients Face Outages

Over 42,000 Oregonians may lose power when utilities shut off power to protect electrical equipment from causing wildfires.

“Such severe winds will harm utility power equipment,” stated Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope. “We’ll restore electricity swiftly and safely.”

Pope said PGE will “probably” cut electricity to 30,000 people in high-fire-risk zones. PacifiCorp Vice President Allen Berreth said 12,500 customers will lose power.

Officials say all Oregonians should be prepared.

“Now is the time to charge your devices, ensure you have flashlights and batteries, non-perishable food and water, and extra medication,” Oregon Department of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said at a conference.

Kandi Young, public information officer for the Oregon Public Utility Commission, said Oregonians should update their utility contact information to prepare for outages.

Young told OPB that utilities contact clients directly by cell phone and email, therefore accurate information is crucial.

Young warned Oregonians about shutoffs. High winds might destroy electrical lines outside these areas, she said. “We’re anticipating wind and weather.

She stated customers may lose power due to weather, not a scheduled outage. Oregon’s PUC regulates PGE, PacifiCorp, and Idaho Power. 2021 law requires utilities to report on their wildfire prevention efforts.

Multnomah County officials warned citizens to charge phones and prepare for power outages.

Power Outages Close Schools

Several Oregon schools will be closed Friday due to scheduled power outages to prevent wildfires.

Santiam Canyon and Sweet Home school districts are in Linn County, which will lose power Thursday night. Both districts canceled classes. Pacific Power told customers the lights will go out at midnight.

The Public Safety Power Shutoff begins at 12:01 a.m. on September 9 and might run through Saturday evening, the utility stated.

Oregon Is Prepared For An Increased Fire Risk Due To Warmer Temperatures And Stronger Winds
Oregon Is Prepared For An Increased Fire Risk Due To Warmer Temperatures And Stronger Winds

High temperatures and strong winds are expected, which could feed flames across the state.

Superintendent Todd Miller said a loss of energy made the closing of school the only alternative for schools and families.

Miller: “I don’t like canceling school, especially the first week, but safety issues weigh heavily.” This event may be traumatic for those who experienced it two years ago; burrow down with a family.

In September 2020, similar meteorological conditions caused wildfires in the Rogue Valley and other sections of Oregon, including the Santiam Canyon.

Miller said a shortage of power would make it hard for instructors and kids to see in dark classrooms and restrooms and for staff to prepare student meals. Miller said interrupted communication is a safety risk.

Miller said school transportation could be riskier without power. “This leads to Friday’s school closure.”

Thursday Fires Grow

Hot, dry temperatures and gusty winds nearly doubled the Double Creek Fire in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa-Whitman National Forest on Wednesday.

Thursday morning, fire officials reported 100,977 acres burned. No containment. Imnaha and surrounding areas were under Level 3 “Go Now” evacuations.

As of Thursday morning, 553 firefighters were on the Double Creek Fire. Lightning started the fire on August 30. Three fires in the Eagle Cap Wilderness have burned 30,000 acres as of Thursday morning.

Cedar Creek Fire east of Oakridge is over 30,000 acres and is 18% controlled. Several recreational areas and camps in Linn, Deschutes, and Klamath counties were evacuated.

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