Wildfires continued ravaging portions of the western United States on Thursday, stoked by gusty winds and dry conditions.
Although some weather relief appears to be en route in the coming days, millions of acres have already burned. Home and businesses have been engulfed and injuries to both residents and first responders continue mounting. At least seven deaths have been reported to date.
Live updates continue below:
Update 10:44 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: The death toll in California’s North Complex Fire rose to 10 as officials reported seven more deaths Thursday night, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported. There are also 16 people who remain unaccounted for in Butte County, Sheriff Capt. Derek Bell said during a news conference.
“We’re still investigating the circumstances of those (seven) deaths,” Bell said.
The victims were found in the Berry Creek area, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Three victims were found Wednesday, according to the newspaper.
Update 9:29 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler issued an emergency order because of extreme conditions caused by wildfires in Oregon.
Wheeler ordered that all outdoor parks and natural areas owned by the City of Portland closed to the general public. Wheeler also directed that people who were homeless were to be relocated to “safer areas,” while the city was to activate evacuation sites for fire victims.
Update 8:29 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Oregon officials at a news conference that said two of the state’s largest wildfires were likely to combine.
The Beachie Creek and Riverside fires have burned more than 300,000 acres, according to Doug Grafe, chief of fire protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“We fully expect those two fires to combine,” Grafe said. “This fire will continue to push near Molalla. We really need these winds to stop for the forward spread to stop.”
The extreme fire conditions are being fueled by winds, which are pushing the two biggest fires closer together in Marion County, KOIN-TV reported.
“The fire conditions in Oregon and Washington are probably the most extreme we have ever seen in our lifetime,” Oregon Fire Marshal Lance Lighty said.
Update 8:12 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: A California man posted a dramatic video as he was flying to his home in Fresno, California, showing smoke from the Creek Fire rising above the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Bergman, who works in video production, said he has flown over the mountain range many times, but had not seen so much smoke, CNN reported.
“It was very strange and sad to see the mountain range shrouded in all that smoke,” Bergman wrote on Instagram. “I like to hike a lot, so going up into the mountains is a lot of fun for me, and now that it’s all burning down, things won’t be the way they used to be for quite a while.”
Update 6:52 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Officials in Butte County, California, issued an emergency order allowing restaurants to temporarily reopen for indoor dining.
“We are responding to what we feel is an emergency situation in our county due not only to the wildfire evacuees but also due to the air quality,” Butte County Public Health communications manager Lisa Almaguer told the Los Angeles Times. “We are not recommending this be done but are providing this allowance for a temporary basis right now.”
California state Assemblyman James Gallagher, who represents much of Butte County, said he believed the poor air quality and pollution from the North Complex fires were a greater health risk than the threat of catching the coronavirus inside businesses that follow physical distancing requirements, the newspaper reported.
“Especially in the valley here, we’ve got really bad air quality from all the smoke and the ash in the air from the fires,” Gallagher said. “It’s not packed like sardines in a restaurant. It’s with spacing and people masked when they go into the restaurant, sitting apart.”
Update 6:39 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Troopers with the Washington State Patrol arrested a second man in two days Thursday for intentionally sparking a brush fire in Pierce County, KIRO-TV reported.
A passerby reported a man setting fire to grass with a match near State Routes 512 and 7, and responding troopers chased the man and took him into custody.
The arrest came one day after a 36-year-old Puyallup man was arrested for igniting a larger brush fire that temporarily shut down State Route 167, the TV station reported.
Update 5:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a news conference that the state is “now approaching 900,000 acres burned.
Brown said that number was nearly twice the average burned annually over the past 10 years, The Oregonian reported.
The five largest fires, which cover more than 100,000 acres apiece, are collectively about 1% contained, the newspaper reported.
“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state,” Brown said. “We know there are fire-related fatalities.”
Update 2:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: The August Complex Fire burning southeast of Eureka has become the largest in California’s history and it continues to grow, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The blaze started Aug. 17 as 37 separate fires sparked in the Mendocino National Forest, officials said. The fires, which the Bee reported began during a thunderstorm, have since merged.
By Tuesday morning, the August Complex Fire covered more than 471,000 acres. Officials said it was 24% contained.
Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as the fire continues to burn.
Update 12:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: Officials with the National Weather Service’s Cleveland office shared a forecast model Wednesday showing how smoke from fires blazing across parts of the western U.S. have caused hazy conditions in other parts of the country.
“You can see how it originates from the (West Coast) and moves like a fluid depending on the winds high aloft,” forecasters said in a tweet.
Update 12:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 10: A satellite photo taken Thursday morning showed smoke over a large swath of California and parts of Oregon and Washington.
Update 9:30 a.m. EDT Sept. 10: Oregon Gov. Katie Brown said more than 500 square miles or 300,000 acres were burning Wednesday across the state, causing significant damage and forcing thousands to flee from their homes, KATU reported.
“We expect to see a great deal of loss -- both in structures and in human lives,” Brown said, according to KATU. “This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state.”
As of Thursday morning, at least three people had been reported dead due to fires in Oregon. Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler said one person was found dead in Ashland as the Almeda Drive Fire burned, according to Jefferson Public Radio. Family members told KGW that 12-year-old Wyatt Tofte and his grandmother, Peggy Mosso, died Wednesday as the Santiam Canyon Fire burned in Marion County.
Update 9:10 a.m. EDT Sept. 10: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee highlighted the need to address climate change Wednesday as wildfires raged across the western United States.
“For those who deny the necessity of fighting climate change, let them come to Bonney Lake, let them come to Graham, let them come to Malden, let them come to Okanogan. Let them come to see the explosive conditions that have been allowed to exist in our state,” Inslee said, naming several cities hard-hit by flames.
“I can tell you, we are not going to surrender this state, to allow this to be our future every single year for the next 100 years. We are stronger, smarter and more resilient than that, and I’ll be thinking of these fires when we take our next steps to defeat climate change.”
Update 8:50 a.m. EDT Sept. 10: The family found severely burned as the Cold Springs Fire burned in Okanogan County on Wednesday has been identified, according to KIRO-TV.
Officials said Jacob Hyland, 31, Jamie Hyland, 26, and their 1-year-old child, who are from Renton, were visiting their property in Okanogan over the weekend when the Cold Springs Fire started, KIRO-TV reported. They attempted to evacuate but got caught in the flames.
Update 8:25 a.m. EDT Sept. 10: The Almeda Drive Fire has claimed at least one life in Jackson County, according to multiple reports.
At a news briefing Wednesday, Sheriff Nate Sickler confirmed that a person had been found dead in Ashland, near the area where the fire started, Jefferson Public Radio reported. Authorities are investigating the death.
“Based on the circumstances there’s likely there could be additional (deaths),” Sickler said, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. “But we won’t know that for some time.”
At least two other people have died as wildfires continued to grow in Oregon. A 12-year-old boy identified by family as Wyatt Tofte and his grandmother, Peggy Mosso, died Wednesday in Marion County, KGW reported. Sheriff’s deputies found Wyatt dead in a car with his dog, who also died, according to the news station.
Update 9:47 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: Wildfire specialist Nick Nauslar told The Washington Post that the current wildfire outbreak sweeping the western United States is the largest on record since at least 1910.
“This event is unprecedented due to the number of large, fast moving wildfires over such a broad region. Multiple fires made 20-plus mile runs in 24 hours over the last few days in California, Oregon and Washington” Nauslar, a predictive services meteorologist with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, told the Post in an email.
The geographic footprint, he said, is what sets the current outbreak apart.
“However, most of these fires are making massive runs in timber and burning tens of thousands of acres and in some cases 100,000-plus acres in one day. The shear amount of fire on the landscape is surreal, and no one I have talked to can remember anything like it,” Nauslar told the Post, noting the closest domestic comparison would be the Big Blowup of 1910.
Update 9:12 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea confirmed to North State Public Radio on Wednesday evening that three deaths have been connected to the Bear Fire.
Update 9:07 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: Containment of the El Dorado Fire near Yucaipa had increased to about 20% by Wednesday night, four days after pyrotechnics at a gender reveal party sparked the expansive blaze.
To date, the fire has scorched a total of 11,479 acres, and the area remains under a Red Flag warning, CNN reported.
Ten planes and helicopters are dropping water and fire retardant from the air, and more than 150 crews are working on the ground to extinguish the blaze that currently involves about 1,000 fire personnel, the network reported.
Update 8:58 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday the temporary closure of all 18 national forests in the state of California due to “unprecedented and historic fire conditions.”
The closures took effect at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
The closures encompass more than 20 million acres of forest, an area about 26 times the size of Rhode Island, The Washington Post reported.
“These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that National Forest visitors can recreate safely,” regional forester Randy Moore, told the Post
Update 8:48 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: Oregon’s office of emergency management has confirmed that more than 470,000 acres have been consumed by 48 active wildfires in recent weeks.
According to the agency, the Beach Creek Fire, which started on Aug. 16, is the largest in the state, with 132,450 acres burned, CNN reported.
Earlier in the day Gov. Kate Brown said during a news conference that hundreds of homes are burning statewide
Brown said the current situation warranted her invoking the Fire Compensation Act for the entire state for the first time and directing the Office of Emergency Management to request a federal emergency declaration.
“This act gives the state fire marshal the power to direct and deploy state resources anywhere where they are needed,” Brown said.
She cautioned continued outbreaks could result in the “greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history” and noted hundreds of homes have already been destroyed.
“Early reports indicate that the towns of Detroit in central Oregon, Blue River and Vida in Lane County, and Phoenix and Talent in southern Oregon, are substantially destroyed,” Brown said.
Update 8:32 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: Fire officials estimate nearly 100 separate wildfires are burning across portions of the western United States.
On Sunday, the National Interagency Fire Center confirmed a total of 87 large fires burning across the country, and by Monday evening that figure increased to 96.
According to the center, the fires have scorched nearly 3.5 million acres to date.
Update 7:07 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: A 1-year-old boy has died in northeastern Washington state after flames overran his family attempting to flee the Cold Springs Fire engulfing Okanogan and Douglas counties.
The family was reported missing Tuesday, and investigators found their wrecked and burned vehicle that day but no sign of the trio. The child’s injured parents were discovered Wednesday morning along the banks of the Columbia River, but the boy was already dead, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley stated in a news release.
Parents Jacob Hyland, 31, and Jamie Hyland, 26, both of Renton, Washington, were flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where they are listed in critical condition and receiving treatment for third-degree burns, Hawley stated.
The child’s death remains under investigation.
Update 6:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 9: A 12-year-old boy and his grandmother have died in the wildfire outbreak sweeping portions of Oregon, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
A family member told KOIN that the boy had been missing since he fled his home Tuesday to escape the encroaching Santiam Canyon wildfire.
The boy was found dead Wednesday. His mother is hospitalized in critical condition, and the child’s grandmother was also killed in the fire, the family member told the TV station.
Meanwhile, gusty and dry conditions continued to stoke blazes across neighboring states California and Washington on Wednesday, but forecasters told The Associated Press weather relief is en route.
An influx of polar air has already slowed wildfires in Colorado and Montana, cooling some spots by as many as 60 degrees, but the majority of West coastline areas remain under Red Flag warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
“The significantly colder airmass is helping reduce critical fire conditions across the West; however, most of West coastline and adjacent counties have Red Flag warnings in effect for part of today,” NWS stated.
Forecasters also said winds could begin diminishing by Thursday, “bringing some relief to the ongoing fires and fire weather threat.”
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