Wildfires in Oregon and Washington Consume Small Towns, While Paradise in California Again Threatened

A service station that was destroyed by a wildfire is shown on Sept. 8, 2020, in Malden, Wash. High winds kicked up wildfires across the Pacific Northwest on Monday and Tuesday, burning hundreds of thousands of acres and mostly destroying Malden.

A service station that was destroyed by a wildfire is shown on Sept. 8, 2020, in Malden, Wash. High winds kicked up wildfires across the Pacific Northwest on Monday and Tuesday, burning hundreds of thousands of acres and mostly destroying Malden. AP Photo/Jed Conklin

 

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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Arizona school system putting as many as 70 students in virtual classrooms … Pennsylvania officials warn voters about robocalls with misinformation … Georgia could investigate people who voted twice in primaries.

Wildfires in Oregon consumed small towns earlier this week, approaching the city of Medford Wednesday morning and sending thousands of people fleeing flames fed by dry winds. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said at a press conference. Fires similarly devastated the small farming towns of Malden and Pine City in Washington state, where residents described a fire that ripped through their communities and left only ruin behind. “Rocks were exploding on the hillside. That’s how hot it was,” said one resident. In the San Francisco Bay Area, people woke up Wednesday to orange skies and air thick with smoke. In tiny Paradise, which was devastated by a wildfire on Nov. 8, 2018 that killed 85 people, residents who rebuilt are now again on edge as the nearby Bear Fire remains frighteningly close. Most have evacuated. “The smells, the ash falling—and there’s a lot of ash falling right now — everything is reminiscent of that day. It just makes you feel—here we go again,” said Mayor Greg Bolin. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that wildfires had burned 2.3 million acres in the state so far this year, compared to 118,000 acres during all of 2019. [Oregon Public Broadcasting; Oregonian; Spokesman-Review; San Francisco Chronicle;Mercury News]

BIG VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS | Families in one public school system in Arizona who opted for all virtual learning for their children are finding that teachers are assigned classrooms with 50 to 70 students. "My assumption was when my kids went back to school ... was that there would be 30 students in his class," said one parent who noted her fourth grade son’s virtual classroom has 55 kids in it. A spokesperson for Gilbert Public Schools said that teachers will occasionally work with smaller groups of students, while other students work independently. [Arizona Republic]

ROBOCALLS | Pennsylvania officials are warning voters in the state about a round of robocalls circulating misinformation about mail-in voting, including claims that ballots would share personal information with law enforcement agencies and credit card companies. “These false and targeted robocalls are another desperate tactic to scare eligible Americans from participating in the election,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Don’t listen to their lies—vote. We will protect every eligible ballot. All Pennsylvanians can be confident that voting by mail is safe, secure, and legal.” [Penn Live]

VOTING TWICE | The day after Democratic state attorneys general warned people against casting two ballots in an election (after President Trump’s suggestion that people consider doing so), Georgia’s Republican secretary of state said 1,000 voters in his state could be investigated for doing this during the primary. “A double-voter knows exactly what they’re doing, diluting the votes of each and every voter that follows the law,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Tuesday. But Georgia’s primary was chaotic, with multiple levels of failure: voters not receiving mail ballots, long lines, insufficient assistance and malfunctioning machines at the polls. And voters in Georgia are allowed to cancel an absentee ballot if it hasn’t been received. One poll worker said some people were given affidavits and allowed to vote if election officials couldn’t provide an update on their mail ballots. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

RECALLS FAIL | An effort to force a recall election for the mayor of Madison, Wisconsin fell short when it failed to get the required 36,203 signatures needed to be successful. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that she is “not going to be distracted by a small group of people who want to divide this community.” A push to recall Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also recently fell short of the needed signatures, the second time in a year that Republicans failed to gather enough support for the idea.  [Wisconsin State Journal; Oregonian]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.

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