“It’s important for me to just show the support for the hard working men and women who are actually doing the job here on the ground,” Kitzhaber said.
The fire has burned more than 36,000 acres near the Green Springs after being started by a lightning strike last week, but its growth has slowed significantly in the past few days. The fire is now 35 percent contained, and fire lines have been constructed around the entire fire.
More than 1,300 firefighters and staff members are assigned to the fire, from agencies across Oregon and northern California. Kitzhaber said the cooperation between the two states has been seamless, and has helped crews get a handle on the fire.
“This has been an incredible bi-state response to a very, very complicated, rapidly growing fire,” he said.
But Kitzhaber said large fires like the Oregon Gulch Fire have become too common in Oregon over the past few years, something Kitzhaber blamed on a lack of forest management. He said the costs of fighting fires takes money away from management resources, and he hopes the federal government will help invest in the state’s efforts to reduce wildfire danger.
“We’re seeing these over and over every year, they’re getting worse and worse, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said.
Kitzhaber stressed to Oregonians to take steps to avoid human-caused fires, to allow firefighters to focus on the lightning-started fires they are already battling.