Oregon fire spreads, governor declares statewide state of emergency

A wildfire in southwestern Oregon continued its rapid spread in a rural area and destroyed several structures, authorities said Sunday, as the threat of new fires prompted the governor to sign a statement of statewide emergency.

The Rum Creek Fire has burned nearly 15 square miles (38 square kilometers), according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s more than double the 7 square miles (19 square kilometers) reported on Saturday.

A house and two mining structures were destroyed, fire spokesman Scott Owen said.

A heat wave moving through the region in the coming days could worsen the situation and make it easier to burn fuels, officials said. With much of the region in drought, Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency due to the looming threat of statewide wildfires, which Brown said is unlikely to recede in a near future. The order allows National Guard troops to be deployed and respond to fires as needed for the remainder of the wildfire season.

A remote area with about 200 people and more than 100 homes and other structures remained under evacuation, according to information from Josephine County Emergency Management.

The evacuation included the unincorporated community of Galicia. Sections of the Rogue River, popular among rafters and anglers, have been closed for recreation due to the fire.

Brown’s office announced Saturday that she invoked an emergency act that cleared the way for the state fire marshal to mobilize firefighters and equipment to assist local firefighters and to support a coordinated response.

More crews were brought in to fight the blaze and a second airbase was added, officials said. On Sunday morning, helicopters and air tankers dumped 1 million gallons (4.5 million liters) of water and 1 million gallons of retardant on the fire, Owen said.

The fire was started by lightning on August 17 and killed 25-year-old firefighter Logan Taylor after he was struck by a tree the following day. Brown ordered all flags at public institutions in Oregon to be flown at half-mast Monday in honor of Taylor, with his memorial service to be held the same day.

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