More than 500,000 people in Oregon — more than 1 in 10 Oregonians — have been forced to evacuate their homes and towns because of one of the 100 major wildfires burning across the state, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said.
In the U.S. West Coast state of Oregon, wildfires have left at least four people dead in the past 48 hours, destroyed thousands of homes and burned 365,000 hectares. Several towns were destroyed in Oregon and one in Washington state.
Police have opened an arson investigation into the Almeda Fire, which started in Ashland, Oregon, near the state line with California, said Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara. The fire raced north and destroyed an estimated 600 homes in the towns just north of Ashland.
Two of Oregon’s largest fires are expected to merge southeast of Oregon’s largest city, Portland. Chief Deputy State Fire Marshal Mariana Ruiz Temple said she discussed the possibility of evacuating some parts of the Portland metro area with local authorities. She said everything would depend on wind direction and force.
“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said at a news conference.
In California, wildfires continued to sweep across the state Thursday, killing at least three people and destroying hundreds of homes and burning more than a million hectares, significantly more than what was burned last year.
Authorities said hundreds, if not thousands, of homes have been damaged or destroyed by the fire in the western state’s northern Sierra Nevada range. They said some 20,000 people in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties were under evacuation orders or warnings.
Many homes in the Butte County hamlet of Berry Creek, with a population of 525, were incinerated.
The so-called North Complex near the small Northern California city of Oroville that had been burning for weeks was 50% contained until wind gusts up to 72 kilometers per hour on Tuesday and Wednesday caused the fire to expand sixfold.
Ten people have died in the North Complex fire, according to the Associated Press, and four people have been hospitalized with critical burns.
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