Grim Arrival in Ore.: First Mobile Morgue

There have been 8 deaths in the state; 22 are confirmed missing
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2020 8:53 AM CDT
Burning Oregon Opens First-Ever Mobile Morgue
A chicken wanders through charred remains from the Beachie Creek Fire near the destroyed Oregon Department of Forestry, North Cascade District Office in Lyons, Ore., on Sunday.   (Rob Schumacher/Statesman-Journal via AP, Pool)

State Police have opened Oregon's first-ever mobile morgue with dozens of deaths expected in raging wildfires that have already burned some 900,000 acres. The official death count was reduced from 10 to eight after two sets of remains in Jackson County were determined to be animals. But 22 people are missing and another 28 are unaccounted for, reports OregonLive. The mobile morgue at a state facility in Linn County will be operated by a 75-member regional response team. Members will recover remains, then work to identify them through fingerprints, dental records, X-rays, and forensic examination. A separate facility allowing relatives to submit to rapid DNA testing to assist in identification will also be opened this week once the proper equipment arrives.

Officials hope to "give family members closure as soon as possible," Capt. Tim Fox tells OregonLive. "We understand this is a super tragic event," he adds. "We understand this is hard." There are at least 13 large wildfires burning in the state. The Riverside fire, covering more than 130,000 acres near Estacada, is 0% contained. But "we're getting in resources" and "should start seeing containment in the next few days," Alan Sinclair, the Southwest Incident Management Team Commander, tells OregonLive. The Beachie Creek fire near Detroit, covering some 186,000 acres, is also 0% contained. However, cool temperatures and high humidity have lessened the fires' spread. And rain is expected between Tuesday and Thursday, per the Salem Statesman Journal. (More Oregon stories.)

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