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Unprecedented wildfires in three American states

Oregon fires put 500,000 under evacuation orders as US blazes kill 15

Unprecedented fire conditions burn more than 900,000 acres
Firefighting resources are stretched thin in three states 
 Guardian,  Jason Wilson in Portland, Maanvi Singh in Oakland and Sam Levin in Los Angeles Fri 11 Sep 2020 More than 500,000 people in Oregon were under evacuation orders on Thursday as unprecedented wildfires rage across the state, amounting to more than 10% of the population, authorities said.

Wildfires searing through the American west have killed at least 15 people, leveled entire neighborhoods and forced stretched firefighting crews to make tough decisions about where to deploy.

The situation is especially acute in Oregon where fire conditions not seen in three decades have fueled huge blazes that have killed at least three people, destroyed at least five towns and forced the evacuation of communities from the southern border to the Portland suburbs.

On Thursday night, Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration in the state, enabling federal assistance to bolster local efforts.

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, said on Thursday that more than 900,000 acres have burned across the state in the last several days – nearly double the amount of land that usually burns in a typical year. “We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state,” Brown said……..,.

Firefighters on the west coast are tackling blazes across three states……

This week’s fires did not just affect rural areas: Wednesday saw evacuation orders in Clackamas county, including south-eastern suburbs of Portland, and rural parts of Washington county, which also takes in the city’s western suburbs.

By Wednesday evening, that city was blanketed with smoke from fires burning around its forested south-eastern fringe, and in rural areas to the south-west.

The explosion of fires across the region were stoked by dry winds, and a record heatwave – and fueled by widespread drought, which dried out vegetation into kindling.

The early part of the week saw gusts of up to 50mph in western areas, downing trees and power lines in Portland and other cities. The rare weather, more characteristic of winter storms in the region, was accompanied by historically low relative humidity.

The conditions led to an unprecedented “extremely critical” fire weather warning for southern Oregon on Monday, and only the second such warning in state history for north-west Oregon……….

California, which has been battling a barrage of fires since August, has within the last few weeks seen the first, third, fourth, ninth, 10th and 18th-largest wildfires in state history, according to the National Weather Service.

Even in the midst of its dry, hot, windy fire season, California has experienced wildfires advancing with unprecedented speed and ferocity. Since the middle of August, fires in California have killed 12 people, destroyed more than 3,600 buildings, burned old growth redwoods, charred chaparral and forced evacuations in communities near the coast, in wine country north of San Francisco and along the Sierra Nevada. Authorities said the August Complex fire is now officially the largest fire on record in the state’s history, having scorched more than 736 sq miles (1,906 sq km).

In some areas of the San Francisco Bay Area and to the east in the Sacramento Valley, smoke blocked out so much sunlight on Wednesday that it dropped the temperature by 20 to 30 degrees over the previous day, according to the National Weather Service.

The US Forest Service, which had taken the unprecedented measure of closing eight national forests in southern California earlier in the week, ordered all 18 of its forests in the state closed Wednesday for public safety.

Fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. People in foothill communities east of LA were warned to be ready to flee, but the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were weaker than predicted……. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/10/wildfires-us-california-oregon-washington-latest-death-toll?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

September 12, 2020 - Posted by | climate change, USA

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