Tuesday, September 15th 2020, 1:03 pm - Dozens of wildfires have burned across some 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) in California, Oregon and Washington state since August.
By Shannon Stapleton and Adrees Latif
(Reuters) - Oregon's governor is seeking additional federal assistance as her state battles the deadly wildfires sweeping the western United States, and local residents pitched in on Tuesday to help the many people displaced by the blazes.
Dozens of wildfires have burned across some 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) in California, Oregon and Washington state since August, ravaging several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least three dozen people.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Monday sent a letter to the White House requesting a Presidential Disaster Declaration following the federal emergency declaration on Sept. 10. The request from the Democratic governor includes a call for additional communications resources, damage-assessment teams, search-and-rescue and debris management, as well as help with shelter and medical assistance.
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"Firefighting resources became completely exhausted during this event, and because both California and Washington state are experiencing similar wildfire emergencies, Oregon's requests for assistance from neighboring states were, for days, going unfilled," the letter said, explaining the need for further federal resources.
On Monday, President Donald Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, met with firefighters and officials in California. His Democratic challenger Joe Biden branded the Republican president a "climate arsonist" for refusing to acknowledge climate change's role in the wildfires, while Trump said, "I don't think science knows."
FILE PHOTO: Fire department workers assess damage to a church in the aftermath of the Beachie Creek fire in Detroit, Oregon, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Ten deaths have been confirmed during the past week in Oregon, the latest flashpoint in a larger summer outbreak of fires accompanied by lightning storms, heat waves and extreme winds.
The fires have put harmful levels of smoke and soot into the region's air, painting skies with tones of orange and sepia even as local residents deal with another public health emergency in the coronavirus pandemic.
Cooler, moister weather and calmer winds over the weekend enabled firefighters to gain ground in efforts to outflank blazes that had burned largely unchecked last week. Thunderstorms forecast for later in the week could bring much-needed rain but also more lightning.
FILE PHOTO: A P2V Neptune air tanker drops fire retardant on a hill near Mount Wilson Observatory while battling the Bobcat Fire in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
As disaster teams scoured the ruins of dwellings engulfed by flames amid chaotic evacuations last week, Oregon's emergency management authorities said they had yet to account for 22 people reported missing in the fires.