California wildfire: Three killed in explosive inferno


Thick smoke is seen above Salem City, Oregon, US, on 8 September 2020Image copyright
Zak Stone via Reuters

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown says the state could see the greatest loss of life and property from wildfires in its history

Oregon and other states across the US Pacific Northwest are currently battling record-breaking wildfires.

Fires are also burning in the north-western state of Washington, which is unusual because of the region’s cool, damp climate.

Three deaths in Oregon have been blamed on the wildfires, and one in Washington state.

In California, three people died in a wildfire that has forced thousands from their homes, authorities say.

Wildfires are raging in nine other western states, according to the National Fire Information Center.

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A colour infrared satellite image shows destroyed homes after the Alameda Fire in Phoenix, Oregon: burned vegetation and property appear grey, surviving vegetation is in red

Oregon Governor Kate Brown told a news conference on Wednesday: “This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state’s history.”

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Red sky and thick smoke in Salem City, Oregon

The fires are blazing across the state’s valleys and along the coast, causing mass evacuations.

One Oregon evacuee, Jody Evans, told NewsChannel 21 about her ordeal.

“Fire on both sides, winds blowing, ash flying – it was like driving through hell,” she said.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said on Tuesday that more than double the acreage had been torched in the previous 24 hours than had been burned during all of last year in his state.

What’s happening in California?

California – in the middle of a 20-year mega-drought – is experiencing more than two dozen wildfires, including three of its five largest ever.

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Media captionFive ways that show the scale of California’s 2020 wildfires

The sheriff of Butte County, north-east of San Francisco, said two people had been found dead at one location and a third elsewhere.

One of the three was a motorist who was apparently trying to escape the Bear Fire, police told local media. The Bear Fire has scorched more than 200,000 acres since it began in mid-August.

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Media captionWildfires rage across thousands of acres in California

The latest deaths mean that fires in the state have now killed at least 11 people since last month. More than 2.3m acres have been burned this year in the state.

California Highway Patrol Officer Ben Draper told the East Bay Times that one of the fatalities discovered on Wednesday was someone who seemed to have been trying to flee the wildfire.

He said investigators believe the unidentified driver had fled his or her car after driving towards a ditch before being overcome by the smoke and flames.

“Somebody was just attempting to flee and it just didn’t work out,” he said.