An overwhelming series of fierce, wind-driven wildfires in Oregon have all but destroyed five small towns, leaving a potentially high death toll in their wake, Governor Kate Brown said on Wednesday, as initial casualty reports come in.
Winds of up to 50 miles per hour sent blazes moving tens of miles within hours, engulfing hundreds of homes as firefighters fought at least 35 large blazes across Oregon.
The town of Detroit in the Santiam Valley, as well as Blue River and Vida, and Phoenix and Talent in southern Oregon, were substantially destroyed, Governor Kate Brown said during a press conference.
“This could be the greatest loss in human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” Brown said.
Wildfires in Clackamas County have destroyed 22 houses and structures since Sunday night and are threatening more than 600 other houses and structures as thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes. The entire county is under some level of evacuation warning, with about half the county, including Estacada and parts of Molalla, under a Level 3 evacuation order, meaning residents are asked to leave immediately.
“Everyone must be on high alert,” Brown said.
The blazes are extremely destructive around Medford, in southern Oregon, and near the state capital of Salem.
At least three people were killed in Oregon fires and a small child died in blazes in Washington state. Brown said some communities were substantially damaged, with “hundreds of homes lost.”