Fire Marshal Quits Amid Horrific Spate of Wildfires

Meanwhile, tragedy strikes a family and their dog
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2020 2:30 PM CDT
Fire Marshal Quits as Wildfires Devastate Oregon
Chris Tofte gets emotional after a group of volunteers left to continue searching for his missing son Wyatt Tofte, 13, and his dog Duke, in Stayton, Ore., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.   (Brian Hayes/Statesman-Journal via AP)

Oregon's fire marshal has stepped down as a deadly rash of wildfires ravage his state, the Oregonian reports. Details remain foggy, but an insider suggests Fire Marshal Jim Walker wasn't up to the job. He allegedly handed over daily management of the crisis to his chief deputy, Mariana Ruiz-Temple, and lost the confidence of State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, who accepted Walker's offer of resignation. The job has now fallen on Ruiz-Temple's shoulders: "Mariana has led with grace, transparency and courage," said Gov. Kate Brown. "She embodies the experience Oregon needs to face this crisis, in this moment." For more on the fires:

  • The numbers: In a word, staggering. Some 94 major West Coast fires have struck mostly forested and rural areas across several states, primarily California, (25), Washington (16), Oregon (13), and Idaho (10), but big cities like Los Angeles and Seattle are choking on the unhealthy air. The fires have killed 33 people and burned 4.6 million acres as of Sunday, CNN reports.

  • Tragedy: A boy, his grandmother, and their dog perished earlier this week inside a vehicle in Marion County, Oregon, KTLA reports. The victims were Peggy Mosso, 71, Wyatt Tofte, 13, and Wyatt's dog, Duke, who was found in the boy's lap. Wyatt's dad Chris had gone looking for a generator and wasn't there when the fire struck.
  • Trump: After weeks of saying little about the wildfires, President Trump plans to visit McClellan Park, California, and Reno, Nevada, on Monday, CNN reports. "THANK YOU to the 28,000+ Firefighters and other First Responders who are battling wildfires across California, Oregon, and Washington," he tweeted Friday.
  • Inmates: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday allowing inmate firefighters to become professional ones after their release, the Hill reports. The legislation will let certain prisoners who are already fighting the fires have their records rescinded. That includes inmates convicted of rape, murder, kidnapping, and arson.
  • Climate: Democratic governors and lawmakers hit the Sunday talk shows and opposed President Trump's argument that forest mismanagement caused the wildfires, the New York Times reports. "These are consequences of a warming planet that have huge impacts on rural America, with our forests, with our farming, with our fishing," said Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon on NBC's Meet the Press.
(Read more wildfires stories.)

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