‘The Thing I Dread The Most Is Not Knowing’: Western Wildfires Rage Amid Race To Flee

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A couple embrace on Thursday while touring an area devastated by the Almeda Fire in Phoenix, Ore.

John Locher/AP


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John Locher/AP

A man walks through a neighborhood destroyed by the Almeda Fire on Friday in Talent, Ore.

John Locher/AP


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John Locher/AP

Seven new fatalities in California, as state breaks record for largest blaze

In California on Friday, nearly 15,000 firefighters were battling 28 major wildfires in the state. According to Cal Fire, five of the top 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have happened in 2020. The amount that has burned so far this year is 26 times more than the same period last year – and would cover an area larger than Connecticut, fire officials said.

«As weather conditions improve, firefighters continue to gain ground on the many wildfires that began three weeks ago,» Cal Fire reported on Friday.

California has reported 19 fatalities this fire season – including seven additional deaths confirmed Thursday in Butte County, north of Sacramento, from the Bear Fire.

That blaze has killed at least 10 people and forced more than 20,000 to flee after rapidly expanding earlier this week, according to Capital Public Radio. Twenty-six are still missing.

«The fire exploded to six times its previous size between Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to gusting winds,» Capital Public Radio reported. «Authorities say the fire is advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress.» The North Complex, which includes the Bear Fire, is 23% contained as of Friday afternoon.

Despite progress in other areas of California, the August Complex in Tehama County became the largest fire in the state’s history on Thursday, at 746,607 acres. It was originally 37 separate fires caused by lightning in mid-August. Fire officials say «a large scale wind event on Tuesday and Wednesday» caused the fire to push through the fire lines and expand.

The massive fire is just 25% contained.

Washington air quality plunges

Washington is also seeing large fires, concentrated inland in the state. Earlier this week, a fire consumed nearly every structure in the small town of Malden.

Satellite images show much of western Washington blanketed in a thick cloud of smoke.

NPR member station KUOW posted photos of Seattle covered in a massive plume of smoke on Friday. Seattle air quality had reached «very unhealthy» levels by late morning, according to The Seattle Times.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that people in the West should expect more fire seasons like this due to climate change.

«I wish the 2020 wildfires were an anomaly – but this will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is a bellwether of the future,» Brown tweeted on Thursday. «We are seeing the devastating effects of climate change in Oregon, on the entire West Coast, and throughout the world.»

  • California wildfires
  • Oregon

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