Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency as two massive wildfires converged near the city, but after failures to quell more than three straight months of violent protests, critics could only mock the politician.
Wheeler issued the emergency order late Thursday night, citing “extreme wildfire conditions threatening lives and property.”
Oregon has 35 wildfires burning across 900,000 acres, which has led to 500,000 evacuations in the state already. Far more evacuations may be necessary with two of the largest blazes, the Beachie Creek and Riverside fires, nearing a merger south of Portland. Two counties in that region, Clackamas and Marion, have combined populations of nearly 1.4 million.
Governor Kate Brown has called the disasters “an unprecedented fire event.” She said Friday that “we have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state.” Wildfires also have scorched swaths of neighboring Washington and California, causing at least 17 deaths across the region thus far.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Twitter users mocked the controversial mayor, who has been accused by the Trump administration of helping to enable violent Antifa and Black Lives Matter protests that have plagued the city since late May. Portland’s emergency declaration came the same day that Wheeler announced a ban on police use of tear gas to help disperse the riots. When the emergency tweet followed later, one observer quipped, “Did you tell the fire department they couldn’t use water – you know, to de-escalate?”
Another Twitter user jabbed at attempts by mainstream media and Democrat politicians to downplay violent anti-racism protests across the nation, reassuring Wheeler that “the wildfires are mostly peaceful.” Others called on the mayor to resign, while some netizens noted that the city has been burning for months – with city blazes set by anarchist protesters – but the mayor is only now showing concern over fires.
Some observers have even suggested a connection between Antifa arsonists and the wildfires, though there is no evidence to back up the speculation. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted a Facebook notice Thursday, saying false rumors had been spread that six Antifa members were arrested for setting wilderness fires. The rumors spread rapidly and led to 911 dispatchers and other staff being inundated with requests for information on the false claim.
Wheeler, who announced last week that he was moving out of his condominium in Portland’s upscale Pearl District after rioters firebombed the building, did offer some guidance for avoiding new fires. The tips included avoiding outdoor grilling and ensuring that cigarette butts are safely extinguished, though there was no mention of how to avoid Molotov cocktails.
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