Oregon prepared for a “mass extinction” Friday when dozens of forest fires continued to burn across the state.
“We know we are dealing with fire-related deaths and are preparing for mass extinctions based on what we know and the number of structures lost,” Andrew Phelps, the state’s emergency services director, told reporters during a devastating event Message briefing with Governor Kate Brown according to information from Portland-based KION-TV.
At least 5 dead, dozen missing as 36 wildfires burn over Oregon
At least eight deaths have been reported in the state, and Brown said dozens more people were missing, including in Jackson County and Marion Counties east of Salem, the state capital. Oregon has not released an official death count.
More than 10% of the state’s population – around 500,000 people – have been ordered to vacate their homes or be ready to evacuate as the fires continued to destroy everything in their way.
Improved weather helped the efforts on the ground after days of strong wind, heat and low humidity.
“The wind dropped pretty strong for us yesterday,” said Stefan Myers from the state fire information team.
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One suspect was also charged with two arson charges for allegedly starting the Almeda fire in the southern part of the state. The suspect denied starting the fire.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.