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Why California, Oregon and Washington State Are Searching for Help to Battle Fires

Firefighters, some with black smudges across their faces, streamed into the fire station in downtown Molalla, then hopped into their cars and themselves began to evacuate.

“We’re falling back,” one said as he headed out of town.

Vern Sides, 71, a former firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, watched them go from the parking area of the Ace Hardware where he works, and where he was now planning to spend the next few days camping in his blue Ford truck. He lives in the woods and was betting that his home was going to be destroyed. He choked up as he watched the fire station across the street empty out.

“They don’t have enough manpower,” he said. “They don’t have enough air support. These guys are coming in exhausted. They’re spent. They don’t have anything more to give, but they go out.”

Elsewhere in the state, crews were still fighting fires and sorting through the devastation from flames that had already passed. In Phoenix, Ore., aerial images showed whole neighborhoods razed to the ground. In areas east of Salem, the state capital, officials warned that more bodies could be discovered as they sifted through the devastation.

Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said it could be days or weeks before officials had a full understanding of the impacts from the fires.

In addition to the request for fire engines, Mr. Phelps said the state would also be seeking help from other states for search-and-rescue crews, emergency operations support personnel and crews equipped to detect human remains. Ms. Brown said her office put in a request to the Defense Department for a battalion of active-duty military trained in firefighting.

So many state aid requests have gone to the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, which helps direct wildfire resources, that the group has been left to decide which ones get priority. Dan Smith, a member of the group who is also fire director for the National Association of State Foresters, said that as of Thursday morning there were over 300 requests for support that could not be fulfilled.

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