In response to the escalating threat posed by the Bensel Fire, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has taken action tonight by invoking the Emergency Conflagration Act. This move enables the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) to deploy additional resources and personnel to protect both life and property in the affected region.
The situation took a significant turn earlier this Sunday when the OSFM mobilized air tankers and a helicopter to bolster ongoing firefighting efforts. These resources are dedicated to providing essential structure protection for homes located perilously close to the raging Bensel Fire.
Level 1, 2, and 3 evacuation orders have been issued by the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office. These orders are in place for residences under direct threat from the Bensel Fire, highlighting the immediate danger faced by the community.
With the declaration of a conflagration, the OSFM is poised to further intensify its efforts. This includes the mobilization of structural firefighters, essential equipment, and the deployment of the Green Incident Management Team.
Oregon State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple issued a poignant reminder, stating, “Although portions of Oregon are receiving rain, this is a stark reminder that we are not out of wildfire season yet. We are asking the people of Oregon to help prevent human-caused fires by remaining wildfire aware.”
Governor Kotek’s invocation of the Emergency Conflagration Act, as per ORS 476.510-476.610, was grounded in the assessment that the fire presents a severe threat to life, safety, and property. The magnitude of this threat surpasses the capabilities of local firefighting personnel and equipment. This declaration effectively paves the way for the state fire marshal to unite with local resources, forming a coordinated and powerful response.
The OSFM’s Green Incident Management Team is slated to take charge of the Bensel Fire at 8 a.m. on September 4, 2023, ushering in a new phase of firefighting efforts. Structural task forces from various counties across Oregon are also joining the battle, due to the Oregon Fire Mutual Aid System.
As of this evening, the unofficial estimate of the wildfire is 750 acres.
You can track this fire through our 2023 Wildfire Season partner’s Wildfire Aware app.