Published 9:57 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020
Displaced residents in southern Oregon and northern California are starting to get good news — but it’s coming at a trickle, and is often enveloped by more bad news.
Early Tuesday morning, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office, noting that the urban fire just outside Medford, Oregon, was now 100% contained, turned over command to local authorities in Jackson County. The Almeda Fire, which torched 3,200 acres, destroyed two small towns in southern Oregon but has now moved into the “stabilization” phase, as search and rescue teams continue to assess damage and potential hazards.
But Tuesday afternoon, there were grim updates. Though Jackson County officials reduced the Level 3 evacuation areas, it also updated the number of residential structures lost in the fire, putting the number above 2,350; previously, it had been estimated at around 600 structures.
On Monday, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office said that fires in the state — which continue to burn close to urban areas outside of Portland — were the worst they’d ever seen.
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In northern California, the fire burning in the Klamath National Forest, which displaced the residents of Happy Camp, California, moved to 10% containment, up from 5% Monday. That fire has spread across the border into Oregon, but officials said Monday that if the weather pattern held, they felt confident they’d be able to contain more of the fire this week, though spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman declined to put any sort of timetable on full containment.
The city of Happy Camp, which had been evacuated when the fire burst out of control, has started to repopulate. The fire is estimated to be 136,000 acres.
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Air quality, however, is still dangerous in both fire areas. In Medford, it was down to a 226 rating, which is considered “very unhealthy.” But that’s an improvement from earlier this week, when it was regularly registering above 300, which is considered hazardous. Just 100 miles southwest of Medford in Happy Camp, air quality was clocking in at 346.
Freeman, who works with the National Parks Service, said Monday that fires up and down the west coast had stretched already thin resources even thinner.
“The resource drawdown is a really big deal,” she said. “That we’re seeing so much widespread fire, it’s not just state or federal resources are are strapped — it’s across the board.”