National Guard deployed to Oregon to help contain wildfires

The National Guard joined at least seven states Tuesday sending help to Oregon as its governor requested a presidential disaster declaration as it struggled to contain dozens of wildfires ravaging the region.

California has still seen the brunt of deaths, accounting for 24 of the 33 confirmed West Coast wildfire fatalities, but Oregon has been overwhelmed by at least 35 wildfires that saw more than 10 percent of the state evacuated.

With dozens still missing, Gov. Kate Brown begged for more help — even as assistance came from across the US and even Canada.

“One week into this wildfire crisis, our state has been pushed to its limits,” Brown tweeted late Monday.

“It’s hard to wrap our heads around the pain and suffering so many Oregonians have endured over these few days,” she said.

President Trump approved federal emergency aid last week, but the governor said Monday that she requested a presidential disaster declaration, hoping it would bring even more long-term resources to the state’s response and recovery efforts.

“Oregon is strong. Oregon is resilient. But to fight fires of this scale, we need all the help we can get,” Brown said.

The request includes additional communications resources, damage assessment teams, search and rescue support, debris management, as well as shelter and medical assistance. Individual assistance for the counties and tribes was also included in the request.

So far, eight people have been confirmed dead in the Beaver State with 22 officially confirmed missing, officials said.

The death toll had earlier been announced as 10, but officials discovered two of the bodies were animals, The Oregonian noted, also bringing down the overall West Coast total to 33 deaths.

The National Guard also confirmed Monday that 125 members were being deployed to help firefighting efforts as well as rescue operations.

“We’re checking for hot spots, making sure it’s not going to spark up and cause a spot fire somewhere else,” Master Sgt. Haina Searls said in a release. “A lot of times, we might be helping people evacuate out of their homes, making sure they’re out of harm’s way.”

The service is also providing 250,000 N95 masks for agricultural workers and tribal members affected by wildfires, Brown said.

The National Guard has already been helping in California, where thousands of firefighters remain on the lines of more than two dozen major wildfires that have scorched 5,000 square miles.

The known death toll stood at 24 Tuesday and more than 4,200 structures have been destroyed.

Smoke from the fires left four West Coast cities among the top 10 in the world listed as having the worst air quality, the Los Angeles Times noted.

Oregon’s Portland was deemed worst — with smoke blowing in from more than 30 blazes burning across the state — while Seattle in neighboring Washington was in third place in the IQAir rankings. California’s major cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are listed sixth and ninth.

The smoke also forced Alaska Airlines, along with its regional carrier Horizon Air, to suspend all flights in and out of Portland as well as Spokane, Washington, plus smaller airports in the region.

“Across the West, fires are creating thick smoke and haze, causing very poor air quality conditions in the Portland and Spokane areas,” Alaska said in a statement Monday. “We made the difficult decision to stop our operation so that our employees and guests can remain safe.”

In Europe, meanwhile, almost 1,000 firefighters and 15 water-dropping aircraft battled a major wildfire in central Portugal, officials there said.

With Post wires

Share this article:

Source: Read Full Article