Ignited July 14th by multiple lightning strikes and fanned by hot, dry windy conditions for days, over a dozen wildfires blazed in Oregon and Washington, threatening lives, homes and livestock, making the Pacific Northwest the nation’s number one wildfire priority with over 800,000 acres burning.
Governor Kitzhaber Declares State of Emergency
To mobilize the Oregon National Guard to respond to wildfires burning across the state, Governor Kitzhaber declared a State of Emergency. Kitzhaber’s declaration determined that a threat to life, safety and property existed due to the fires, and that the threat exceeded the firefighting capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment.
Firefighters Battle to Contain Blazes and Prevent New Ones
Although no major changes in the fires were reported from July 19th to July 20th, thousands of firefighters continued to battle the blazes throughout the week amid gusty winds, with cooling temperatures allowing them to make some headway.
On July 21st, one death was reported with 150 homes destroyed. Predictions of more thunderstorms and wind with a chance of more lightning later in the week brought firefighters from larger fires to help initial attack crews snuff out new starts before they grew.
Ranchers Report Lost Livestock
Ranchers in eastern Oregon reported losing dozens of cattle to the fires. Surviving injured livestock without forage and too traumatized to eat would require large veterinary bills. Ranchers waited for the ground to cool to get into the burned range to recover dead and injured cattle. “By the time these wildfires are put out, there is no telling how many cattle will have perished,” said Scott Anderson, a spokesman for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
Weather Forecasters Issue Warnings
Although forecasters predicted cooling conditions with rainfall, thunderstorms would also bring severe weather and lightning strikes that could spark additional fires. By the end of the week, the Northwest could then see temperatures soar back into the 90s to near 100.