By Tyler Willford - September 10, 2020
This week Oregonians have been stunned by the shocking number of wildfires that have started in Oregon. As of September 10th, 2020 there are still 37 active fires, with over 672,000 acres currently burning across the state.
These fires have led to loss of homes and lives as they have swept not only across Oregon’s wild areas but also through cities and small towns. Officials are just beginning to total lives lost from fires such as the Alameda Fire which burned through Phoenix and Talent Oregon near Medford, as the remains of homes have not been able to be searched through yet.
As the fires continue, police have arrested one man suspected of starting fires, and are looking for another.
An Unprecedented Number Of Large Fires
Earlier this week 48 wildfires burned in Oregon. While the number today is only 37 fires, it’s still unusual. Dry weather and high winds caused fires to grow at a fast rate and spread over large areas. High winds also made it difficult to fight the fires by air. In a tweet on September 8th meteorologist Nick Nausler called the number of large and rapidly spreading wildfires across Washington, Oregon and California unprecedented.
With so many fires people have begun to wonder what the cause might be. While some of the causes are knownsuch as downed power lines, other fires are still under investigation, and two men in the past few weeks have been arrested for suspected arson.
A Mapleton Oregon resident, 44 year old Elias Newton Pendergrass is now facing charges of arson after being arrested on Tuesday September 8th in connection with the Sweet Creek Fires which burned over 500 acres.
At the end of July a man was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree arson after multiple fires were found burning northeast of Glide Oregon near McComas Creek. 39 year old Jedediah Fulton was armed with a machete and told firefighters on scene to give him a ride to Glide or he would start additional fires.
The destructive Alameda fire in Talent and Phoenix Oregon just south of Medford is currently under investigation. The September 8th fire wiped out neighborhoods and businesses in a large swath of destruction and destroyed around 600 homes. Whether the fire was set intentionally or not is still to be determined. A body has been found at the origin point of the Alameda fire and a criminal investigation is underway.
In Dexter along highway 58 a middle-aged man with arm tattoos was seen lighting two fires in bushes on Wednesday September 8th. Several people reportedly extinguished the fires before firefighters arrived. People are asked to be on the lookout for a man with a black German Shepherd driving a green Ford or Chevy SUV. Anyone with information about the man is asked to contact law enforcement.
Be sure to check out the links we’ve given to all of the above sources of information. False claims of arson have been circulating on Facebook, and we’ve worked diligently to bring you only factual information. See one such instance of a false social media post below:
Resources For Factual Oregon Wildfire Information
Here are several resources where you can get up to date and factual information about Oregon’s wildfires:
Cascade Firewatch On Facebook – Includes information on Washington, Oregon and California wildfires and is updated throughout the day with photos, videos and maps.
NWCC Northwest Interagency Coordination Center – Large Fire Information Summary.
DEQ Air Quality Index – Updated information on smoke and air quality across Oregon with an interactive map.
Oregon.gov Active Large Fires Map – This map is best accessed via PC.
Stay up to date with the latest on Oregon’s wildfires with That Oregon Life. Oregon has also set up an official wildfire resources page.
For evacuations, look to your county sheriff for accurate information. If the sheriff tells you to evacuate, you are urged to cooperate – for your safety, and the safety of firefighters working in the area.