Sixteen dead, 500,000 evacuated as western USA burns out of control

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

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

The number of people under evacuation orders in OR alone climbed late in the day to some 500,000, about an eighth of the state's total population, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Emergency Management said.

But California has already seen more than 3.1 million acres burn this year - an annual record, larger than the entire state of CT - with almost four months of fire season still to come.

Governor Kate Brown told journalists that the exact number of fatalities was not yet known, although the AFP news agency reported that at least four had been confirmed by local officials.

With one death in Washington's Cold Springs Fire, the overall death toll from the 2020 wildfires season in the West is at least 23. Unfortunately, it is a bellwether of the future.

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

Police have opened a criminal arson investigation into at least one OR blaze, the Almeda Fire, which started in Ashland near the border with California and incinerated several hundred homes in adjacent communities along Bear Creek, Ashland Police Chief Tighe O'Meara said. "We are feeling the acute impacts of climate change".

"We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it, so we're going to pursue it as a criminal investigation until we have reason to believe that it was otherwise", he told Reuters. It was the second time in two days that firefighters in California had to take the rare last-ditch effort to save their lives.

BUTTE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: A scorched auto rests in a clearing following the Bear Fire late Wednesday morning - part of the North Complex Fire.

Another dozen people are reportedly unaccounted for in the area.

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

Two major fires straddling Clackamas and Marion counties are still expected to merge as hot and dry conditions persist, a spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal said Friday.

San Francisco resident Mila Zinkova who snapped one image of San Francisco's Martian like state.

The blaze is among 29 major wildfires burning from the OR border to just north of Mexico.

The national weather service released an advisory indicating that wildfire smoke has drifted all the way across the North American landmass and over the Atlantic, informing Britons to "expect to see some colourful sunsets" and adding that "the moon also has a definite orange hue to it at the moment too".

Orange skies over San Francisco were a symptom of deadly wildfires burning across northern California.

The biggest recorded blaze in Californian history - the August Complex Fire - has ripped through 746,000 acres (302,000 hectares) of dry vegetation in the state's north, as multiple fires combined under high temperatures and strong, dry winds.

"Jesus Christ. The skies are on fire over in America but look at the views!". "The lights were on when I first got here", said athletics manager Bob Melvin. "It has been dark out there all day. I don't have any sunglasses to go out there with today".

Eight more people were killed in California wildfires last month. "The unbelievable rates of spread now being observed on these fires is historically unprecedented", he said.

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