Two wildfires in OR expected to merge in coming days

James Marshall
September 12, 2020

A Northern California wildfire that destroyed a foothill hamlet has become the state's deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead - and the toll could climb as searchers look for 16 missing people.

More than 1 million hectares had been burned across the whole state so far, a Cal Fire spokesman said on Thursday.

There are now an estimated 100 wildfires raging across 12 western USA states.

The blaze is among 29 major wildfires burning from the OR border to just north of Mexico. The blaze is nearing the Estacada, Molalla and Scotts Mills areas, officials said.

One fire in Ashland, Oregon, close to the border with California, is being treated by police as possible arson.

Half a million people have been evacuated in neighboring Oregon.

The Oregon blazes tore through at least five communities in the Cascade mountain range as well as areas of coastal rainforest normally spared from wildfires.

Data from the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite have shown the LNU Complex had burned 375,209 acres (586 square miles) by September 2, making it the third-largest wildfire by acreage in state history.

Some people counted their blessings after fleeing the Bear Creek trailer park where almost every house burned. Hundreds of homes in the town have been lost due to wildfire.

Firefighters said unusually hot, dry winds out of the east supercharged blazes, spreading flames from community to community, and then from house to house.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said some 900,000 acres had burned, dwarfing the state's annual 500,000-acre average over the past decade. "We just keep setting new precedents, and then we keep destroying them", said Sean Norman, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "We do not have time to deny the reality of climate change", he tweeted Tuesday.

Climate scientists say global warming has contributed to greater extremes in wet and dry seasons, causing vegetation to flourish then dry out in the US West, leaving more abundant, volatile fuel for fires.

Portland's mayor declared a state of emergency late Thursday.

"We have to report an additional seven deceased individuals were located by our deputies and detectives today", Butte County Sheriff Captain Derek Bell said.

Experts said that despite more favorable weather conditions, the two wildfires will eventually merge.

Yesterday the governor and fire officials passed on information about the evacuations in Clackamas County, noting that Oregonians have "never seen this much uncontained fire across the state".

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday for Siskiyou County, where the Slater Fire was at 127,000 acres and 0% contained.

In California, at least 14,000 firefighters were one the front lines Friday battling 28 active wildfires that have scorched a combined 3.1 million acres - an area larger than CT.

"This allows fire managers to quickly mobilise firefighting resources and personnel, and aids with post-fire burn severity mapping to allow rapid rehabilitation and recovery operations to occur on the most critical ecosystem-affected areas".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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