A blitz of wildfires across Oregon, California and Washington has destroyed thousands of homes and a half dozen small towns this summer, scorching more than 1,619,000 hectares and killing more than two dozen people since early August.
Crews in Jackson County, Oregon, were hoping to venture into rural areas where the Alameda Fire has abated slightly with slowing winds, sending up thick plumes of smoke as the embers burned.
From Medford through the neighbouring communities of Phoenix and Talent, an apocalyptic scene of charred residential subdivisions and trailer parks stretched for kilometres along Highway 99.
After four days of brutally hot, windy weather, the weekend brought calmer winds blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean, and cooler, moister conditions that helped crews make headway against blazes that had burned unchecked earlier in the week.
Still, emergency officials worried the shifting weather might not be enough to quell the fires and may bring increased winds.
At least 10 people have been killed in Oregon, according to the office of emergency management. Brown has said dozens of people remained missing across three counties. There were 34 active fires burning in Oregon on Sunday morning.
Thick smoke and ash from the fires has darkened the sky over the US Pacific northwest since Labor Day, creating some of the world’s worst air-quality levels and driving residents indoors.
Drought conditions, extreme temperatures and high winds in Oregon created the “perfect firestorm” for the blazes to grow, Governor Kate Brown told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
“This is a wake-up call for all of us that we’ve got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change,” Brown said.
Trump was scheduled to travel to California and meet federal and state officials on Monday. He has said western governors bear some of the blame for intense fire seasons in recent years, as opposed to warming temperatures, and has accused them of poor forest management.
In California, evacuations were ordered for the northern tip of the San Gabriel Valley suburb of Arcadia as the Bobcat fire threatened communities.
At Wilderness Park in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, firefighters prepared to stave off the blaze as it worked its way downhill.
All told in California, nearly 17,000 firefighters were battling 29 major wildfires on Sunday, Cal Fire said.
However, improving weather conditions had helped them gain a measure of containment over blazes in many parts of the state, and some residents in Madera County near where the massive Creek Fire was burning, were allowed to go back home.
More than 4000 homes and other structures have been incinerated in California in the past three weeks and more than 1,214,000 hectares of land have been burned in the state.
-AAPJump to next article