Several dead as wildfires ravage California and turn sky apocalyptic orange

Several people have been killed in wildfires in the US, where tens of thousands have been told to flee their homes as firefighters battle dozens of major blazes across large parts of California and its neighbouring state of Oregon.

There, its governor, Kate Brown, has said hundreds of homes have been destroyed and the devastation could become overwhelming.

“This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” the Oregon governor told reporters, calling the fires “unprecedented”.

Wildfires blanket San Francisco in darkness and an orange glow
Image:Wildfires blanket San Francisco in darkness and an orange glow

Three prisons were also evacuated late on Tuesday.

Firefighters were struggling to try to contain the blazes and officials in some places were giving residents just minutes to evacuate their homes.

Timelapse

Timelapse of drive through apocalyptic orange haze
California wildfires: Record two million acres burned as LA County hits new temperature record

California wildfires: Record two million acres burned as LA County hits new temperature record

“It was like driving through hell,” Jody Evans told local television station NewsChannel21 after a midnight evacuation from Detroit, about 50 miles (80km) west of Salem, Oregon’s capital.

The fires trapped firefighters and some residents and levelled an entire small town in eastern Washington.

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#nofilter An apocalyptic bird’s-eye view. Pray for California 🙏🏾 @SFGate@sfchronicle@CNN@NBCNews@ABC#CaliforniaFires#SanFrancisco#BayAreaFires#BayAreapic.twitter.com/YL0MNC2WfP

— Jarami Bond (@jarami_bond) September 9, 2020

Winds of up to 75mph helped to fan dozens of fires across Washington state and Oregon that rarely experience such intense blazes because of the Pacific Northwest’s cool and wet climate.

Sheriff’s deputies, travelling with chainsaws in their patrol cars to cut fallen trees blocking roads, went door to door in rural communities 40 miles south of Portland, telling people to leave.

The remains of a home smoulders in Butte County, California
Image:The remains of a home smoulders in Butte County, California
Burning vegetation near Lake Oroville as wildfires rage across California
Image:Burning vegetation near Lake Oroville as wildfires rage across California

Since Tuesday, as many as 16,000 people have been told to abandon their homes.

“These winds are so incredible and are spreading so fast, we don’t have a lot of time,” said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts.

Crews clear brush in the path of a fire near Lake Oroville, California
Image:Crews clear brush in the path of a fire near Lake Oroville, California

In Washington state, governor Jay Inslee said more than 330,000 acres (133,546 hectares) burned in a 24-hour period.

A 12-year-old boy and his grandmother died in a wildfire near the Santiam Valley community of Lyons, about 50 miles south of Portland, according to KOIN News.

Over 2 million acres have burned this year as wildfires continue to burn across Northern California
Image:More than two million acres have burned this year

The fire also was suspected of causing at least one death outside of Ashland, said Rich Tyler, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

A one-year-old boy was also killed and his parents severely burned fleeing a fire in Okanogan County, Washington, police said.

A satellite image shows destroyed homes in Mountain View Estates in Talent, Oregon
Image:A satellite image shows destroyed homes in Mountain View Estates in Talent, Oregon

Hundreds of miles away in northern California, the remains of three people were found in two separate locations, according to Sheriff Kory Honea, bringing the total death toll from this summer’s spate of wildfires in the state to at least 11.

One of the victims was found in a car, apparently attempting to flee the fires, California Highway Patrol Officer Ben Draper told reporters.

Around 64,000 people were told to leave their properties as crews tackled 28 major fires there.

Oregon, US

Deadly wildfires rage across Oregon

About a third of those evacuees were displaced in Butte County alone, north of Sacramento, where a wildfire has scorched more than 200,000 acres since it started last month.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the blaze northeast of San Francisco, fire officials said.

Fires

Huge flames burn through over 11,000 acres

The fire has also threatened Paradise, a town devastated just two years ago by the deadliest blaze in state history that prompted a traffic jam as panicked residents tried to escape.

Thick smoke choked much of the state and cast an eerie orange hue across the sky on Wednesday.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, conservatively estimated the fire had burned about 400 square miles in 24 hours.

“The unbelievable rates of spread now being observed on these fires – it is historically unprecedented,” he tweeted.

Firestorms in Oregon

Buildings in the US state of Oregon were set ablaze after a fire storm swept through.

The US Forest Service, which had taken the unprecedented measure of closing eight national forests in Southern California earlier in the week, ordered all 18 of its forests in the state to close for public safety.

California has set a record with nearly 2.5 million acres burned already this year, and historically the worst of the wildfire season does not begin until the autumn.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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