Death toll over 30 as wildfires continue to devastate West Coast
The wildfires sweeping through the West Coast states have killed more than 30 people, officials say.
Dozens are missing in Oregon alone and one emergency official said the state should prepare for a “mass fatality incident.”
Over the past three weeks, wildfires have been raging across Oregon, California and Washington, burning acres of land and destroying thousands of homes. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the wildfires.
Joe Biden warned on Saturday that “climate change poses an imminent, existential threat to our way of life” and accused President Trump – a climate sceptic – of denying “that reality.”
Trump, who will visit California on Monday, blames the wildfires on poor forest management.
The smoke pollution from the wildfires has left Oregon’s largest city – Portland – with the worst air quality in the world, followed by San Francisco and Seattle, according to IQAir.com.
Oregon and Washington
There are 16 large blazes being fought by firefighters in Oregon and 40,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders.
10 people have died in Oregon due to the wildfires, according to Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) but officials believe the final death toll could be a lot higher.
Oregon’s Fire Marshal Jim Walker resigned on Saturday, shortly after he had been placed on leave amid a personnel investigation.
Governor Kate Brown asked householders to stay out of the fire zones despite reports of looting.
“Let me assure you that we have the Oregon National Guard and Oregon State Police monitoring the situation and preventing looting,” she said.
The Almeda Fire – one of Oregon’s worst blazes – is being treated as suspected arson.
In Washington state, firefighters are tackling 15 large fires. A one-year-old boy died earlier in the week as his family tried to escape a fire. The parents remain in critical condition.
The latest in California
Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom inspected damage from the North Complex Fire in Northern California.
“The debate is over around climate change,” he told reporters. “This is a new climate damn emergency. This is real and it’s happening.”
He did acknowledge forest management failings in recent decades, but said: “That’s one point, but it’s not the point.”
He said record heat waves and unprecedented fires were the sorts of problems long forecast by scientists.
President Trump says California could prevent wildfires if it raked forest floors properly.
“You’ve got to clean your forests – there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, so flammable,” he told a rally last month. “I’ve been telling them this now for three years. But they don’t want to listen.”
The North Complex Fire has been burning since 18 August and is among the deadliest in history. Twelve bodies have been found so far and a number of people are still missing.
California has seen at least 22 deaths in total from fires since 15 August. Tens of thousands of residents are under evacuation orders as 14,800 firefighters continue to combat 28 major fires in the state.
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