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Rain Expected To Suppress Oregon Fires, Could Bring Landslides, Flooding And Lightning

Brown visits Beachie Creek Fire.jpg
Oregon gov. Kate Brown tours an area burned in the Beachie Creek Fire on Sept. 16, 2020

A new frontal system is expected to bring rains and thunderstorms to much of Oregon’s Cascades.

Rain could offer some relief to Oregonians, thousands of whom have been evacuated due to wildfires, and help firefighters suppress the existing fires scorching the state.

The storm front rolling in Thursday evening is expected to dump moisture west of the Cascades.

Doug Grafe, the chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said the moisture will be hitting an ideal area.

“If I could script it, that’s exactly where I would [put it],” Grafe said, calling it “good news for Oregon.”

Grafe did warn that the winds could increase and, if the moisture doesn’t hit the burning area first, those winds could be problematic and test any fire containment lines firefighters have established.

“For the next 24 hours, we’re expecting some challenges with the weather,” Grafe said. “The storm front does bring favorable moisture, however, there are some downsides and it’s those winds and it depends on where the winds land.”

Firefighters have made significant progress on wildfires in recent days.

Grafe said the fires fully under control now include the Echo Mountain Fire near Lincoln City, the Powerline Fire near Gaston, the Chehalem Fire near Newberg and the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon, near Ashland and Medford.

There are still 10 large fires burning in the state.

Countless homes and businesses have been destroyed in the fires that have burned about 1 million acres in the state.

Andrew Phelps, with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, said the official death toll remains at eight people. Thousands of homes are still being assessed, he said. More than 2,000 people are staying in hotels or motels across the state, with 130 people staying in traditional shelters and another 875 staying in RVs or other types of shelter.

Kris Strickler, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation, said more than 240 miles of state roadways are closed.

The air quality is expected to improve in the coming days, according to Gabriela Goldfarb, with the Oregon Health Authority. She said by Friday most Oregonians will be breathing cleaner air.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning Thursday for burned parts of the Beachie Creek and Holiday Farm fires east of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting