SALEM, Ore. – Governor Kate Brown declared September 7 a day of remembrance one year after the historic wildfires devastated numerous communities in Oregon.
On September 6, 2020, the Beachie Creek Fire covered an estimated 500 acres near the Santiam Canyon. On September 7, a unique wind event allowed the fire to explode to 130,000 acres in a single night. Winds were 50 to 75 miles-per-hour and the fire expanded by about 2.77 acres per second. Residents in the Santiam Canyon were forced to evacuate immediately ahead of a wall of flames.
That evening, another fire broke out at a nearby incident command post. It merged with the Beachie Creek Fire within hours. From that night on, the fires became collectively known as the Santiam Fire. It went on to devastate communities in and around the Santiam Canyon.
On September 8, similar winds fueled the Almeda Fire which tore through Talent, Phoenix, and parts of south Medford.
On the one-year anniversary of the historic fires, Governor Kate Brown declared September 7 as a day of remembrance. She issued the following statement:
“Today marks one year since a severe windstorm fueled the catastrophic Labor Day wildfires that tore through Oregon communities, causing historic destruction and displacing thousands of families.
“I want to acknowledge that this anniversary is traumatizing for so many Oregonians, especially as we continue to rebuild while facing even more wildfires this season. Wildfire survivors have experienced exceptional stresses and trauma over the last year, including the added challenges brought on by COVID-19.
“As is the Oregon way, we are stronger when we stand together. I want to thank all the dedicated Oregonians — the firefighters, local emergency managers, Red Cross volunteers, neighbors, community-based organizations, and many more — who helped with response efforts and are now focused on recovery. I remain committed to building back better and stronger — by engaging communities, rebuilding in an equitable way, and building more fire-resistant communities.
“As we reflect on the past year and continue to recover and rebuild, we must also prepare for the next disaster. As part of National Preparedness Month, I’m calling on Oregonians to ‘honor with action’ by taking simple steps to stay informed and be better prepared, such as signing up for emergency alerts, reviewing community evacuation routes, or talking with a neighbor who may need some extra help during an emergency.
“Because if we learned anything this past year, a disaster can happen at any moment. Whether that be public health, wildfire, severe winter storms, or extreme heat. By taking steps to be better prepared, together we can build stronger, more resilient communities.”