The National Weather Service said wildfires across Northern California caused unprecedented clouds of smoke.
At least seven people have died as more than 90 major fires burn in 13 western states.
“Firefighters in western states are seeing extreme fire behavior,” the National Fire Information Center. Three deaths have been reported in California, three in Oregon and one in Washington state.
In Butte County, Northern California, Sheriff Kory Honea said at least three people have died, 12 are missing, and hundreds of homes are feared to be destroyed by the North Complex fire above San Francisco. Thousands of other homes were threatened.
Several people were severely burned and 20,000 people were under evacuation orders or warnings in Plumas, Yuba and Butte counties. Thick smoke completely blocked sunlight in some large areas, and distant flames turned the sky orange in others.
“We have repeatedly seen how dangerous fires can be. … So I ask you, please, please, to be prepared, maintain situational awareness and heed the warnings, ”pleaded Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
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John Sykes, a 50-year-old resident, managed to escape with his car and some clothes, but saw the city burn from about a mile away.
“The school is gone, the firefighters are gone, the bar is gone, the laundromat is gone, the general store is gone,” Sykes told the Sacramento Bee, adding, “I’ll never go back. … I never want to see California again. “
The fire also threatened Paradise, a city devastated in 2018 by the deadliest fire in the state’s history. More than 80 residents died and nearly 20,000 buildings were destroyed in that fire.
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In the Sierra National Forest, authorities say it will likely take at least a week, and possibly even a month, before the Creek Fire is sufficiently controlled for residents to return. The fire has displaced tens of thousands of Californians, and the Red Cross has already helped more than 600 people with hotel rooms since group shelters are banned during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Firefighters have not yet released detailed maps of the damage caused by the fire, but say at least 60 homes and 278 commercial residential structures have been destroyed. Rocky Alec, 22, and Kristen Kipp, 21, have decided to abandon their trailer near Mammoth.
“You couldn’t really see anything. There was smoke everywhere. We were too much smoke to see the flames,” Alec said. “In the beginning we were like it was just another fire. Then it became real. “
In Southern California, wildfires broke out in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. But the strong Santa Ana winds predicted for the area were weaker than expected.
The El Dorado Fire, which burned about 20 square miles in San Bernardino County, was reported as 23% contained on Thursday. Nearly 1,000 firefighters were “actively engaged in the protection of structures and have successfully defended multiple structures,” Cal Fire said.
However, the homes were lost and damage assessment teams were working to confirm the extent of the damage, the number of homes and businesses, and their location. Firefighters said the fire was caused by a pyrotechnic device used on Saturday during a “gender revelation” event.
Strong, gusty winds on the West are expected to weaken Thursday and over the weekend, the National Weather Service said.
“We are encouraged that wind activity appears to be declining,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The rest of the week looks a little more favorable.”
However, according to the Meteorological Service, low humidity and warmer temperatures will be enough to keep fire problems high. Additionally, the rather stagnant air mass will likely keep the ongoing smoke areas in the Northwest, Great Basin, California and other areas in the west facing fires, resulting in poor air quality, he said. AccuWeather.
Some more substantial relief could be on the way for the Northwest early next week as a storm system approaches the coast, potentially bringing some welcome rainfall, according to AccuWeather.
‘We may hear the trees explode’: At least 7 dead as fires rage across the West
There are several weeks of fire season left in a region plagued by heat and arid soil. California has already set a record with nearly 2.3 million acres burned this year. Oregon and Washington state also fought against the historic fires.
Wind fires also raged in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In Oregon, a series of wildfires killed three people and forced residents to flee flames, smoke and destruction. Governor Kate Brown said hundreds of residences were destroyed. He said rescuers were “flooded” and urged residents not to call 911 to report clouds of smoke or ash.
“This could be the largest loss of life and property from a fire in our state’s history,” Brown said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee blamed climate change and promised “steps to defeat” the impact of global warming.
“Let’s not give the future of this state to climate change,” he said. “We are stronger, smarter and more resilient than that.” And I will think about these fires and the communities they are affecting as we take our next steps to defeat climate change.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Virginia Contributions: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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