California Fire: Deadly Northwest fire burns across 25 miles, destroys homes
Washington, Sep 10: Deadly windblown wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest destroyed hundreds of homes in Oregon, the governor said Wednesday, warning it could be the greatest loss of life and property from wildfire in state history.
The blazes from the top of the state to the California border caused highway closures and smoky skies and had firefighers struggling to contain and douse flames fanned by 50 mph (80 kph) wind gusts.
Officials in some western Oregon communities gave residents "go now" orders to evacuate, meaning they had minutes to flee their homes. Fires were burning in a large swath of Washington state and Oregon that rarely experiences such intense wildfire activity because of the Pacific Northwest's cool and wet climate.
Flames trapped firefighters and civilians behind fire lines in Oregon and leveled an entire small town in eastern Washington. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown warned that the devastation could be overwhelming from the fires that exploded Monday during a late-summer wind storm.
"Everyone must be on high alert," Brown said. The blazes were thought to be extremely destructive around Medford, in southern Oregon, and near the state capital of Salem.
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at 9:20 IN THE MORNING. pic.twitter.com/nyiY0vWxf5— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) September 9, 2020
"This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state's history," the governor said. At least three people were killed in Oregon fires and a small child died in blazes in Washington state. Brown said some communities were substantially damaged, with "hundreds of homes lost." The precise extent of damage was unclear because so many of the fire zones were too dangerous to survey, said Oregon Deputy State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz-Temple.
"Quite frankly, we are not even able to get into these areas," she said. In Washington, a 1-year-old boy died after his family was apparently overrun by flames while trying to flee a wildfire in the northeastern part of the state, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said Wednesday.
The child's injured parents were discovered in the area of the Cold Springs Fire, which is burning in Okanogan and Douglas counties, Hawley said. They were transported to a Seattle hospital with third-degree burns.
The department imposed mandatory evacuation for the northern half of the city of roughly 10,000 residents, which stretches alongside US Highway 101, The Pacific Northwest scenes of lines of vehicles clogging roads to get away from the fires were similar to California's terrifying wildfire drama, where residents have fled fires raging unchecked throughout the state.
But Northwest officials said they did not recall so many destructive fires at once in the areas where they were burning. Sheriff's deputies, traveling with chain saws in their patrol cars to cut fallen trees blocking roads, went door to door in rural communities 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Portland, telling people to evacuate.
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.
Three prisons were evacuated late on Tuesday and Brown called the state's blazes unprecedented. The Northwest is no stranger to wildfires, but most of the biggest ones until now have been in the eastern or southern parts of the region - where the weather is considerably hotter and drier and the vegetation more fire-prone than it is in the region's western portion.
Fires in 2017 and 2018 crested the top of the Cascade Mountains - the long spine that divides dry eastern Oregon from the lush western part of the state - but never before spread into the valleys below, said Doug Grafe, chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry.