WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has issued an emergency declaration for Oregon due to the deadly wildfires that have burned across the state and federal officials have also declared a public health emergency as dangerous, smoky conditions continue.
The major disaster declaration, issued late Tuesday, Sept. 15, allows a range of federal help for people and public infrastructure affected by the blazes. The public health emergency declaration will give hospitals and other organizations in the state more flexibility to meet the needs of people who are on Medicare and Medicaid.
Wildfires raging across the state have burned more than 1,300 square miles. At least eight people have been killed.
And authorities say more than 1,140 residences have also been destroyed by the blazes and 579 other structures decimated.
In other fire-related news, a recent incident report noted downed power lines sparked at at least 13 fires during a period of high winds between two communities east of Salem, devastating both in flames.
The report last week from the Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center stated the new fire starts were located between Mehama and Detroit — both in Oregon — during peak winds on Sept. 7.
The report doesn’t say to what extent those fire starts impacted a larger, separate blaze that started on Aug. 16.
That wind-driven fire, called the Beachie Creek Fire, swept through Santiam Canyon on Sept. 8 and wiped out the towns of Detroit, Gates, Mill City and Idanha. Its cause is still under investigation.
The Oregon Public Utility Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, told local media Tuesday Sept. 14, it had no information that attributed a “specific wildfire to any specific Oregon utility.”
And an Oregon man has been formally charged with setting an arson fire in the southwest part of the state that damaged 15 properties.
According to court documents, Michael Jarrod Bakkela, 41, of Salem, started a fire behind a home in Phoenix on Sept. 8 as strong winds pummeled the state. He is not being charged with starting a much larger fire in Ashland, which began the same day.
Bakkela is being held on an enhanced bail of $5 million in Jackson County and faces 32 criminal counts, including two counts of first-degree arson, 15 counts of criminal mischief, 14 counts of reckless endangerment and one count of methamphetamine possession.
He was scheduled to be arraigned later Wednesday.