Thousands evacuated as wildfires burn across Oregon


PORTLAND, Ore. (NewsNation Now) — Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes as wildfires, stoked in part by high winds, ripped through Oregon.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called the rapid spread of fires a “once in a generation event” on Tuesday, approving emergency conflagration declarations that authorized the state fire marshal’s office to provide resources to local agencies battling the Beachie Creek, Lionshead, Holiday Farm and Alameda fires.

A state of emergency was also declared for Marion and Clackamas counties Tuesday, as fires prompted immediate evacuations of several communities in the area, NewsNation affiliate KOIN reported.

“This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state, and frankly for the entire West Coast,” Gov. Brown said.

By Tuesday night, the Lionshead fire in north-central Oregon and the Santiam Canyon fire east of Salem had burned 200,000 acres, Brown said.

Thousands of people were left without power in Clackamas County Tuesday as crews battled large blazes.

One of the fires in the area was sparked by a motorist, according to local law enforcement. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office announced on Twitter that the Spangler Fire started Tuesday at 9 p.m. CT “when an RV pulling a Jeep south was emitting sparks and caught fire.”

“The RV pulled over and it started the brush fire,” the sheriff’s office said.

Fire and debris blocked roads east of Eugene, prohibiting residents from evacuating for a period of time Tuesday, according to the Oregon State fire marshal. Crews were eventually able to get 46 people out of the area, the fire marshal said.

Meanwhile, three prisons in Salem were evacuated because of wildfire threats, sending roughly 1,400 inmates to the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Many residents sought shelter at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem Tuesday. Officials said the facility can shelter up to 10,000 people, KOIN reported.

Sue and Stuart Hurst were among those who went to the fairgrounds for help after evacuating their home in Lyons. They said they were parked at the fairgrounds for more than 16 hours while American Red Cross volunteers helped them get a motel room.

Joyce Jackson also described long waits at the fairgrounds after she left her home in Silverton Tuesday afternoon. Jackson told KRON that she and many others waited until 9 p.m. CT to find out where they would stay for the night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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