An unprecedented spate of deadly wildfires raging across Oregon kept half a million people under evacuation alert on Friday even as weary firefighters took advantage of improved weather to go on the offensive against the blazes.
The fires have destroyed thousands of homes in days, making Oregon the latest epicenter in a larger summer outbreak of fires sweeping the western United States, collectively scorching a landscape the size of New Jersey and killing at least 25 people.
Although at least five lives were known to have been lost in Oregon this week, Governor Kate Brown has warned the death toll could grow far higher and said on Friday that dozens of people had been reported missing in three counties.
Office of Emergency Management chief Andrew Phelps said disaster teams searching the scorched ruins of a half-dozen small towns laid to waste were bracing to encounter possible “mass fatality incidents.”
“This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening. This is the perfect storm,” California Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters from a charred mountainside near Oroville, California.
More than 3,900 homes and other structures have been incinerated in California alone over the past three weeks.
In southern Oregon, an apocalyptic scene of charred residential subdivisions and trailer parks stretched for miles along Highway 99 south of Medford through the neighboring towns of Phoenix and Talent, one of the most devastated areas.
Beatriz Gomez Bolanos, 41, told her four children to close their eyes while fires raged on both sides of their car during their escape from the Bear Creek Mobile Home Park south of Medford, even as embers rained rain down on their house.
“Everything is gone. We have to start again from nothing, but we are alive,” Gomez Bolanos told Reuters by phone.
Molalla, a community about 25 miles (40 km) south of downtown Portland, was an ash-covered ghost town after its more than 9,000 residents were told to evacuate, with only 30 refusing to leave, the city’s fire department said.
Governor Brown told a news conference that more than 500,000 people were under one of three evacuation alert levels, advising them to pack and be vigilant, to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice, or to leave immediately. About 40,000 of those had already been ordered to leave.
In neighboring Washington state to the north, online video from the Tacoma area showed fires in a residential area setting homes ablaze and locals scurrying to warn neighbors.
There are more at the link above including video and pictures. I heard on TYT that two large fires have combined. Stay safe please. Hugs