PHOENIX, Oregon, USA (AP) – Fires are growing in densely populated areas of northwestern Oregon and hundreds of thousands of people are instructed to flee the flames. Many of the residents are low-income immigrants.
Artemio Gutiérrez contemplated the remains of his mobile home helplessly. His children, sitting in the box of his pickup, waited while he collected some objects: a ceramic jug with a smiley face, some toy houses and a cross formed by two pieces of molten glass.
Gutiérrez, a single father of four, was working in a nearby vineyard when he saw heavy smoke creeping over the Rogue River Valley. He barely had time to pick up his children from the mobile home park where they live with dozens of Mexican families and they escaped with the clothes they were wearing.
“I’m going to start over. It’s not easy, but is not impossible either. You have to be strong in situations like this, ”said Gutiérrez, who had just returned from her mother’s funeral in Mexico. Whole parks of mobile homes inhabited mostly by Mexican immigrants working in the vineyards or in construction were reduced to ashes.
“We are like one family. We have known each other for years, since we arrived or even before, ”Gutiérrez said of his neighbors at the Talent Mobile Estates park. “We live from day to day.”
Evacuations in the state due to the fires reached half a million, more than 10% of the state’s 4.2 million population, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management reported Thursday night.
A fire approaching Molalla prompted the order to evacuate the town of 9,000 residents 30 miles south of Portland. A police patrol roamed the streets with a speaker repeating “evacuate now.”
Inmates were moved from a suburban Portland women’s jail “as a precaution,” the state Department of Corrections said.
Faced with the possibility of a merger of two large fires, some firefighters were ordered to be removed from Clackamas County, which includes Molalla, due to the danger. Authorities tried to reassure villagers who were leaving their homes and police said they would reinforce patrols to prevent looting.
“We have not abandoned them,” said the fire department on Twitter.
Many residents of the small town of Phoenix, near the border with California, contemplated a scene of devastation after the passage of the flames. A mobile home park, houses and businesses were reduced to rubble on the scorched earth.