Western wildfires live updates: Disaster declaration issued for Oregon wildfires

Deadly wildfires continued ravaging portions of the western United States on Wednesday, stoked by gusty winds and dry conditions.

Although some weather relief appears to be en route in the coming days, millions of acres have already burned, particularly in California, Oregon and Washington. Homes and businesses have been engulfed, and injuries to both residents and first responders continue mounting.

Here are the latest updates:

Evacuation notices lifted in Oregon county as Riverside fire coming under control

Update 11:33 p.m. EDT Sept. 16: Evacuation notices were lifted for much of Clackamas County, Oregon as firefighters began to contain the Riverside fire, The Oregonian reported. Residents of Estacada were given clearance to return to their homes, the newspaper reported.

The fire has burned 136,000 acres since it ignited Sept. 8, and last week all of Clackamas County was under various stages of evacuation alerts. Firefighters said Wednesday they now have the fire 3% contained and are working 28 miles of fire line to press their advantage under favorable weather conditions.

Bobcat fire in California shifts to northeast, at 3% containment

Update 4:12 p.m. EDT Sept. 16: The Bobcat fire in California continued to expand to the northeast, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The fire in the Angeles National Forest has burned 44,393 acres and remained at 3% containment Wednesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Los Angeles County Fire Capt. David Dantic said dry brush and steep terrain are the main reasons for the fire’s behavior.

“The fire is finding places to go through ridges, down [wind channels] and drainages, and it’s getting to new areas,” Dantic told reporters. “That’s why we’re constantly working on putting a perimeter around it. But it has been challenging. There are some places we can’t get to.”

At least 13 Oregon fires sparked by downed power lines, report says

Update 3:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 16: A fire incident report obtained by The Associated Press showed that at least 13 new fires were sparked by downed power lines between Mehama and Detroit during peak winds on Sept. 7.

The fires fed into the Beachie Creek Fire, a blaze in the Willamette National Forest and Opal Creek Wilderness Area that has so far scorched more than 190,000 acres, according to Willamette Week.

It was not immediately clear which power companies' lines caused the fires.

A spokesman for PacifiCorp, Drew Hanson, told the Week that the company had “no information at this time to know if any of the referenced fires were in our service area.” A spokesman for Portland General Electric, which turned off the power grid near Mount Hood due to winds on Sept. 7, said the company was “not aware of any wildfires caused by our equipment,” the Week reported.

Disaster declaration issued for Oregon wildfires

Update 1:35 p.m. EDT Sept. 16: 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, 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 (3,360 square kilometers). 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.

Record-poor air quality reported in Oregon due to wildfire smoke

Update 10:35 a.m. EDT Sept. 16: In the last week, Oregon has experienced record-poor air quality due to heavy wildfire smoke from dozens of fires burning across the West Coast.

An analysis released Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency showed that air quality in Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls broke records for poor air quality previously set in September 2017.

Since officials began monitoring air quality, no city other than Medford had seen a day where air was deemed hazardous, the worst air quality rating. However, last week Eugene saw five hazardous air quality days while Bend and Medford saw three, Portland had two and Klamath Falls had one.

Air quality approves slightly overnight in Washington

Update 9 a.m EDT Sept. 16: Officials with the National Weather Service’s Seattle office said Wednesday that some areas saw slight improvement in air quality overnight as heavy smoke from wildfires across the West Coast lingers over the state.

Meteorologists said most areas are saw air quality in the unhealthy or very unhealthy range as of Wednesday morning. Forecasters warned that more smoke is expected to move north from fires in Oregon and southwestern Washington later in the day.

Washington governor calls Trump’s criticism of western states ‘outrageous’

Published 1:13 a.m. EDT Sept. 16: On Tuesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee had a direct message for President Donald Trump about the ongoing wildfires across the West Coast.

According to KIRO-TV, Inslee’s comments at a Tuesday news conference in Olympia followed his open letter to Trump on Monday, in which the governor called on the president to listen to climate scientists and recognize the effects of climate change on the already historic fire season in Washington and down the West Coast.

Inslee said he was disappointed in Trump’s visit to California on Monday, when the president met with climate scientists.

“The president had a chance to learn about that yesterday in California but instead he just gave deception and smoked in the faces of those who have had terrible losses and those who have been working so hard to reduce these risks of fires,” Inslee said.

The governor went on to say that it was “outrageous” that Trump has criticized states when he has called for cutting budgets that could be used to take care of national forests.

Read more here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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