Firefighters are in trouble as wildfires sweep across California, Oregon and Washington.
As fires raged up and down the west coast on Thursday, Oregon officials said one of the most destructive fires, which burned entire neighborhoods in two cities, may have been set deliberately.
Three law enforcement agencies in Oregon, including the Ashland Police Department and the State Police, said they had opened an investigation into an arson attack over the Almeda fire, which has been linked to at least two deaths and destroyed about 600 homes in the cities of Talent and Phoenix. .
With firefighters struggling to contain the flames, rescuers made the first forays into the city that had been blackened and carved out by the fires. By Thursday evening they had discovered at least 15 bodies and hundreds of houses had been consumed by flames.
Bobbi Doan, a spokesman for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, said about 500,000 people in the state have been subject to evacuation orders.
“We have never seen this amount of wildfire in our state,” said Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, where 900,000 acres were burned.
Resources have been reduced to a minimum, as Washington and Oregon firefighters who had been deployed to California have been sent home to fight the flames in their backyards. As California continued to burn, with more than three million acres burned, a record in modern history, firefighters were rushed from Utah, Colorado and Texas.
The August complex fire, triggered by a lightning storm last month, on Thursday became the largest fire in California history, having burned nearly 740 square miles.
To the north, more than 480,000 acres were burned in Washington State this week, with some communities substantially destroyed, officials said.
“Every firefighting entity in Washington State would like to have more resources right now,” Governor Jay Inslee said at a press conference Wednesday at the end. He linked the devastating fire season to climate change, noting the intense heat waves of the west coast and invited skeptics to visit a series of badly burned cities: Bonney Lake, Graham, Malden, Okanogan.
In California, the fast moving Bear Fire has grown relentlessly as one of dozens of wildfires across the state. The Bear Fire, burning near Chico, destroyed dozens of homes in Butte County, where 10 people were found dead, affecting the Berry Creek community particularly hard.
In addition to the deaths in Butte County, a 1-year-old boy was killed in the Cold Springs fire in northern Washington, two deaths were linked to the Almeda fire in Oregon, and two victims were discovered in a vehicle in the east. of Salem, Ore., according to the county sheriff’s offices.
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Pushed by winds up to 45mph, the Bear Fire northeast of Oroville, California grew at explosive speed this week, causing 10 deaths as it spread among mountain communities and forced thousands of people to evacuate.
The fire is still growing, but residents were already starting Thursday to learn of the damage in the 252,000 acres it has burned so far. Many will not have a home to return to.
Berry Creek, a community of around 1,200 people, is largely destroyed. On Wednesday afternoon, thick smoke hovered over the area and only a handful of houses were still standing. The city fire station and its fire truck, parked next door, were burned. Across the street, the elementary school was destroyed.
The chap. Derek Bell said Thursday night that the Butte County Sheriff’s Office had found seven other victims and was still working to locate the missing persons.
The Bear Fire is part of the North Complex, which remains contained at 0 percent and has destroyed or damaged about 2,000 structures, said Steve Kaufman, a spokesman for Cal Fire, the state fire agency.
The calmer winds had slowed its growth, giving officials some hope.
“The winds have dropped dramatically, and hopefully will remain in the coming days,” said Scott McLean, a spokesperson for Cal Fire.
Most of the residents of Berry Creek evacuated the town in a panic earlier in the week when fire charged towards them, with a narrow country road the only way to safety. More than 100 people were rescued on Tuesday evening.
At least 200 structures in the city have been damaged, officials said, adding that they don’t yet know the full extent of the destruction, and likely won’t be for several days.
Many other small mountain communities were also affected by the fire, McLean said.
Further south, Creek Fire, near Fresno, remained completely pristine, reaching more than 175,000 acres on Thursday morning. Thousands of people evacuated their homes, emergency teams searched for injured survivors, and the U.S. Forest Service shut down all 18 California National Forests, fearing that people could get trapped in the parks.
Oregon cities have been wiped out and some Portland suburbs are now threatened.
Extreme weather conditions west of the falls in Oregon are expected through Thursday, officials said, continuing fires that have already destroyed hundreds of homes in the state.
Evacuations expanded into Portland’s southern suburbs overnight, with all 418,000 residents of Clackamas County now under a certain level of evacuation warning and at least half of the county under a mandatory evacuation order.
Six homes and six other structures have already been lost in the flames, the county said, and another 400 structures have been threatened by the fires.
The Almeda fire, which devastated communities of Phoenix and Talent in southern Oregon earlier this week, forced new evacuations Wednesday in the town of Medford, the eighth largest city in the state with about 80,000 residents.
In Phoenix, the mayor estimated that 1,000 homes were destroyed by fires. In Talent, a few miles south, hundreds more houses were destroyed. “It’s all gone completely,” said Sandra Spelliscy, city manager of Talent.
Unlike the large fires that occurred in remote areas and burned mostly trees and bushes, the Almeda fire moved through populated areas. The wind pushed the fire so hard that the flames leapt from house to house, igniting entire subdivisions and creating a dangerous and unstable environment for residents to return to.
“When a fire occurs, after the fire has gone through all that is left are burnt trees, bushes, foliage,” said Rich Tyler, a spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office. “When you have a fire burning in homes and businesses, you have open gas lines that are still spewing natural gas, and those are burning. We have flowing water. We have hazardous materials in business that we were not aware of. “
A small Washington town is devastated when a fire spreads.
Wildfires in eastern and central Washington this week devastated communities, killing a one-year-old boy and leaving the boy’s parents with third-degree burns.
Among the most affected was the old railway town of Malden, where deputies rushed through the streets shouting at residents to flee as flames roared towards the city. On Tuesday afternoon, most of the houses in the city were destroyed, along with the town hall, post office, library and fire station.
“I’ve seen this kind of leak in the past, dozens of times,” said Royle Hehr, a resident who ran a flood and fire restoration business in Arizona. “I’ve worked with people who have lost everything. I can’t believe this devastation.”
Volunteers handed out donuts and bottled water on Wednesday. Portable toilets and hand-washing stations were set up as thin lines of smoke from smoking debris – houses, outbuildings, trees, greenery and power poles – corkscrews in the late summer skies.
Four miles down the two-lane highway, three or four large grain bins, full of freshly harvested grain, continued to burn. One had split, his wares burning on the ground like sawdust logs.
In northern Washington, a 1-year-old boy was killed in the Cold Springs fire after the boy and his parents attempted to flee their property, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office said. The family was found Wednesday morning along the Columbia River bank and the parents were flown to a Seattle hospital with third-degree burns.
“It is an extreme tragedy for any loss of life,” said Sheriff Tony Hawley.
“This is an unfathomable loss”: some research for the disappearance ends in tragedy.
As fires raged in California, Oregon and Washington on Thursday, family and friends desperately searched for missing loved ones who remained missing.
Zygy Roe-Zurz, whose family lives in Berry Creek, California, said her aunt was killed as bear fire ravaged the community and that her mother was missing. Authorities told the family that Mr Roe-Zurz’s uncle was likely also dead, he said.
“I feel sterile – this is an unfathomable loss and I will never be the same again,” said Mr. Roe-Zurz, 37, who is in Arkansas and spoke to his mother for the last time Tuesday night, before her. flames intensified. “This cruel fire has taken everything.”
He said his family members staying on the property in Berry Creek had the impression that the fire was getting under control, but that that changed dramatically when the Bear Fire leapt 230,000 acres overnight from. Tuesday to Wednesday.
“It’s pretty much a nightmare scenario,” Roe-Zurz said. “I am devastated.”
There was better news for other families who found loved ones they believed were missing were found safe Thursday.
Katy Carmel said her daughter, Natalie Anderson, had been camping with her boyfriend near the McKenzie Bridge east of Eugene, Oregon. But when the Holiday Farm fire broke out on Monday evening, Mrs. Carmel could no longer reach Mrs. Anderson.
Mrs. Carmel could not sleep, fearing the worst. The days passed and the anxiety grew. On Thursday, authorities informed families that both Ms. Anderson and her boyfriend, Enmanuel Rodriguez, were safe and evacuated.
Ms. Carmel said she was relieved to hear the news, but added, “I’ll be better once she’s actually home.”
No more Martian orange: the sky turns gray in San Francisco.
On Thursday morning, Bay Area residents woke up to a smoky gray sky rather than the otherworldly orange darkness that unnerved the region on Wednesday, when floating soot particles in the atmosphere filtered the sun’s rays in an eerie daytime twilight.
The National Weather Service said smoke and haze conditions will likely continue in the Bay Area for the remainder of the week, with no rain expected in the Northern California, Oregon, or Washington fire zones.
On the plus side, the winds had eased considerably, making it easier to fight the flames, according to David Lawrence, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
With no strong winds to disperse it, the smoke will remain throughout the weekend, Lawrence said: “Most of the western halves of Washington, Oregon and California will be covered in smoke in the next couple of days,” he said. “Overall, it looks pretty confusing.”
Temperatures were expected to be cooler in San Francisco, a break from the scorching heat that helped set the stage for the worst fire season on record.
San Francisco is known for its fog, especially in summer, but the haze that settled on the city skyline on Thursday was no ordinary sea fog. Air quality in the region remained poor due to smoke from the fires and city health officials warned people to stay indoors at least until Friday.
The rain the region craves may finally fall early next week, though it’s still unclear how much, Lawrence said.
“Most areas would experience rainfall,” he said. “We need the weather conditions to change.”
A fire that broke out last month is now the largest in California history.
The August Complex fire that raged in Northern California last month is now the largest in the state’s recorded history, according to the United States Forest Service.
The fire was caused by lightning in the Mendocino National Forest, halfway between Sacramento and the Oregon border, and consumed at least 471,000 acres. This is 12,000 more than the 459,000 acres burned in the Mendocino Complex fire in 2018.
The August Complex, which started on August 17 as a cluster of 37 different fires, killed a firefighter and destroyed 26 structures, according to forest officials.
The five largest wildfires in California history have all occurred in the past three years. Three of them, including the August Complex, started last month.
The fires are ravaging the West – in California alone, five of the largest fires ever recorded have occurred in the past four years – offering a deadly reminder that the nation is far behind in adopting widely known policies to protect lives and property, too. if worsening of fires have become a foreseeable consequence of climate change.
Accelerating disasters mean the United States must drastically rethink its approach to fire management in the decades to come, experts warn. “The first step is to recognize that fire is inevitable and we must learn to live with it,” said David McWethy, a fire scientist at Montana State University.
Millions of Americans are moving to fire-prone areas outside cities, and communities often resist development restrictions. A century of federal policy to aggressively extinguish all fires rather than letting some burn at low levels, an approach now seen as misleading, has left forests with plenty of fuel for particularly destructive fires. This is all in an age where global warming is creating a warmer, drier environment, loading the dice for larger fires.
Some cities and states have taken important steps, such as imposing stricter regulations on homes built in fire-prone areas. And there has been movement towards using prescribed fires to wipe out excess vegetation that can fuel runaway fires in forests and grasslands.
But these changes are still happening too slowly, experts say, and have been overcome by the rapid increase in fires.
“At this point we have learned a lot about how to design homes and communities so they can be more resilient,” said Max Moritz, a fire expert affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But these lessons aren’t being implemented fast enough.”
The main cause of global warming is human behavior, and an important part of the solution is reducing the use of fossil fuels, which pumps the gases that warm the planet into the atmosphere. But in the meantime, there are measures that can reduce the damage of fires even as countries work to reduce emissions.
Police are working to dispel rumors on social media about activists who set the fire.
Officials dealing with mass fires on the west coast were forced to thwart rumors on social media that the fires were set by activists.
In Medford, Oregon, which saw a fire that devastated neighboring communities of Phoenix and Talent, the police department reported hearing throughout Wednesday that officers had arrested leftist or leftist anti-fascist activists for arson. right of the Proud Boys. The department posted their Facebook post to say that neither the story was true, nor a false graphic associated with the rumors, nor were reports of “Antifa rallies”.
However, without evidence, other social media posts have repeatedly stressed the suspicion of the antifa, a loosely coordinated activist group involved in protests in places like Portland, Oregon.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday 911 receptionists had been flooded with inquiries about a false rumor that antifa members had been arrested for setting the fire. The office said the rumors are making a difficult situation even more difficult. “Do your part, STOP. DIFFUSION. NOISES! ” the office said in a Facebook post.
In Oregon, which has suffered catastrophic fires in recent days, officials have not even seen any evidence of such a campaign at the state or local level, said Joy Krawczyk, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Forestry Department. He said many fires remain under investigation.
“We see no indication of a politically influenced mass arson campaign,” said Ms. Krawczyk.
Officials previously said that one of the most devastating fires, the Santiam Canyon fire east of Salem, was caused by falling trees that knocked down power lines.
Meteorologists had warned in recent days that high winds and dry lands would create dangerous fire conditions. But Washington State officials reported a case they believe was arson, arresting a man they say was on a midway highway by starting a fire. That fire was soon extinguished.
The report was provided by Tim Arango, Mike Baker, Maria Cramer, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Bill Morlin, Brad Plumer, John Schwartz, Lucy Tompkins, Max Whittaker is Alan Yuhas.