Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) warned Sunday the state would likely see more devastating wildfires linked to climate change as firefighters continue to battle the mammoth Bootleg Fire, the largest blaze in the United States this year that is still burning near the state’s border with California.
Brown made the comments on CNN’s “State of the Union,” telling host Jake Tapper that an increase in extreme weather, including heat waves and drought, linked to climate change made it urgently important for wildlife officials to prepare for future blazes.
“The harsh reality is that we’re going to see more of these wildfires,” Brown told Tapper. “They’re hotter, they’re more fierce, and obviously much more challenging to tackle. And they are a sign of the changing climate impacts.”
She continued: “Climate change is here, it’s real, and it’s like a hammer hitting us in the head. And we have to take action.”
Oregon has already suffered from several natural disasters in recent months, including the unprecedented “heat dome” that settled over the Pacific Northwest in June. Around 100 people died in the state due to phenomenal temperatures that reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, a figure Brown said at the time was only a “harbinger of things to come.”
The Bootleg Fire, which began July 6, is the third-largest fire in Oregon since 1900 and is just 46% contained, prompting fire officials to warn Sunday that it could grow due to ongoing hot, dry conditions. It’s already scorched more than 401,000 acres of forest and grassland, and as The New York Times notes, has grown so large it’s creating its own weather patterns.
Officials said the fire spawned a tornado earlier this month.
Brown added that the federal government had helped support the state as it battled the blaze, but said it would remain a multibillion-dollar issue not just for Oregon, but for adjoining states.
“It’s incredibly important with climate change that we get into these forests and start doing the fitting and harvest and prescriptive burning, so that we can create healthier landscapes that are more resilient, for wildfire,” the governor said Sunday. She later added: “We’re going to need to partner throughout the West to tackle these issues. As you well know, wildfire knows no jurisdictional boundaries.”