BLY, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown paid a visit to a fire camp near Bly in Klamath County on Wednesday, receiving a briefing from fire officials on the current state of firefighting efforts on the Bootleg Fire — still the largest fire currently burning in the nation, and the third-largest in Oregon's post-1900 history.
Fire officials said that Governor Brown had an opportunity to fly out over the vast burn area, then received an in-depth briefing on current suppression efforts and evacuation levels from the Incident Management Team. She also met with members of the Rapid Extrication Module team that helped to recover a lost firefighter on the eastern flank of the Bootleg Fire earlier this month.
The camp near Bly includes both firefighters and crews from the Oregon National Guard. Brown thanked the Guardsmen as well as the local, state, and federal firefighters that came out to work on the fire.
Brown underlined the state's readiness in the face of severe fire danger this year, with the Office of the State Fire Marshal able to quickly respond to major fire incidents like the Bootleg Fire.
"OSFM was able to have a team here pretty close to immediately," the Governor said. "That makes a huge difference. We had folks staged in central Oregon over the Fourth of July weekend because we were so concerned about the fire danger there, so you have to be proactive . . . you've got to be able to make sure your communities are fire adaptive, and that's going to look different for different communities — it will look different for Ashland than it will for Bly."
Asked about the current state of COVID-19 in Oregon with the Delta virus now ascendant, Governor Brown stood by the current local approach to countermeasures over the state-level restrictions that were in place less than a month ago.
"We are moving to a more traditional, localized approach, where communities can make those decisions themselves based on the rate of infection in the community and the reliance on local public health experts and medical professionals, health professionals in the community," Brown said.
Brown issued a statement after the Bootleg Fire visit with her takeaways:
“Today I saw firsthand the impacts of the nation's largest fire. Oregonians should be incredibly proud of the extraordinary coordination between local, state, federal, tribal, and community partners that goes into responding to a fire of this magnitude.
"I am grateful for the hardworking fire crews on the ground, our Oregon National Guard members providing support, and all those contributing to response efforts.
"The Bootleg Fire underscores the need for our state to have more boots on the ground to respond to fires, as well as the resources necessary to create fire adapted communities and more resilient landscapes."