After some rest, winds are threatened with resurgence in parts of Oregon.
Firefighters battling the devastating flames in Oregon are expected to see recurring gusts of wind in parts of the state on Sunday that threatens to ignite the flames, even as rescue workers continue to search for dozens of missing people.
The National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” on Sunday that windy and dry weather is expected in southern Oregon and nearby counties in California. Some areas could see gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, and forecasters said the winds were “likely to contribute to the significant spread of new and existing fires.”
“We could watch a challenging Sunday,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. At least 20 people were killed in the west coast fires, and Oregon authorities have braced for the possibility of “mass deaths.”
The raging fires in Oregon have already consumed more than a million acres and displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes. Combined with a record 3.1 million acres in California and more than 600,000 acres in Washington State, the west coast has been covered in thick smoke for days that has plunged cities in an apocalyptic haze and left the worst air quality on the planet.
Calmer winds blowing inland from the Pacific Ocean and cooler, wetter conditions on Saturday had helped crews make progress on fires that Oregon Governor Kate Brown described as a “one-off event”.
Warnings on Sunday included Jackson County, where the Almeda swept through the Talent and Phoenix communities, demolishing hundreds of homes and killing at least five people. Jackson County authorities said their missing person list remained at around 50, although some were found certain.
The Almeda fire was only about 50 percent contained on Saturday evening. And exactly in the north, the larger fire in the South Obenchain was only 20 percent contained.
Forecasters warned dangerous air conditions could persist until Monday and encouraged people to limit their time outdoors. Officials hope weather changes could bring rainfall on Monday to help with both the smoke and the flames.
On Saturday, Oregon State Police announced that state firefighter James Walker had resigned after being taken on administrative leave earlier in the day.
The statement did not state why Mr Walker had resigned. He was replaced by his deputy Mariana Ruiz-Temple.
President Trump is expected to visit McClellan Park in California on Monday to be informed of the forest fires.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on CNN’s State of the Union program on Sunday that he was glad the president would see firsthand what is happening in California. But Mr Garcetti used his demeanor to criticize Mr Trump’s efforts to relax climate regulations, saying the government had its “head in the sand” on environmental issues.
“This is climate change,” Garcetti said, noting that the president attributed the devastating forest fires on the west coast to poor forest management.
“This is not just about forest management or raking,” said Garcetti. “Everyone who lives here in California is openly offended by it, and he continues that lie.”
At least 20 people have died in the recent flames along the west coast.
They lived more than 500 miles apart – one in the wooded foothills of the Sierra Nevada, northeast of California’s capital Sacramento, the other in a thickly forested canyon east of Oregon’s capital, Salem.
Josiah Williams, 16.
Wyatt Tofte, Jan.
It was young people who were cut short and victims of the great western forest fires of 2020.
The arrival of the fire season in the American West always brings with it fears of death, especially among the elderly and frail who cannot escape the flames.
But the deaths of Josiah and Wyatt, two sporty teenagers, speaks to the speed and ferocity of the fires that burned a record four acres in California and Oregon this year.
With thick smoke covering much of Washington, Oregon, and California and tens of thousands of people evacuated, the fires were the worst in decades, exacerbated by climate change. As of Saturday, fires in California had burned 26 times more territory than at the same time last year.
Law enforcement agencies searched burned communities across the west this weekend for missing people. At least 20 people were killed in the fires. Dozens more are missing, and the main fire season is only just beginning in many parts of the West.
Though fires have proven more deadly in recent years – a 2018 firestorm that decimated the California city of Paradise killed more than 80 people in a single night – the numbers obscure the trauma that each death brings to small communities, where forest fires caused such terror.
Ash fell from an apocalyptic orange sky when Jennifer Willin drove home last week from the only school in tiny Berry Creek, California, where she found two WiFi hotspots for her daughters’ remote classes. Hours later, her cell phone broke out with an emergency alarm: evacuate immediately.
The next morning, what one official called a “massive wall of fire” had hit the entire northern California city of approximately 1,200 residents, killing nine residents and destroying the school and almost every home and business.
Ms. Willin and her family fled to a cramped hotel room 60 miles away. In her panic, she had forgotten to grab masks, but she had the hot spots along with her daughters’ laptops and school books. On Monday, the two girls plan to meet their teachers on Zoom to find some comfort in the chaos.
In the midst of twin disasters, the distance learning preparations that schools have hit for the coronavirus crisis has provided teachers and students with an odd level of stability, allowing many to stay connected and comfortable in an unexpected form of virtual community.
“You can still be at school,” said Mrs. Willin, “even though the school burned down.”
Forest fire smoke, which can include toxic substances from burned buildings, has been linked to serious health problems.
Studies have shown that waves of smoke increase the rate of hospital visits and that many of the additional patients have breathing problems, heart attacks and strokes.
The health effects of devastating smoke don’t go away when the sky is clear. A recent study of Montana residents suggested a long tail for exposure to forest fire smoke.
Erin Landguth, associate professor in the Department of Public and Community Health Sciences at the University of Montana and lead author of the study, said research showed that “after a bad fire season, expect the flu three to five times worse” months later.
If you can’t leave an area with high smoke levels, the CDC recommends limiting exposure by staying indoors with the windows and doors closed and using air conditioners in recirculation mode to keep outside air from entering your house.
Portable air purifiers are also recommended, but like air conditioners, they require electricity. When utility companies cut power, as they did in California, those options are limited.
If you have electricity, avoid frying food as it can increase smoke indoors.
Experts say it is especially important to avoid cigarettes. They also recommend avoiding strenuous outdoor activities when the air is bad. Well-fitting N95 masks are also recommended outdoors, but these are in short supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some other masks, particularly tightly woven masks made of various layers of fabric, can provide “pretty good filtration” when fitted snugly to the face, said Sarah Henderson, senior researcher in environmental health services at the British Columbia Center for Disease Control.
The coverage was contributed by Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Thomas Fuller, And Levin and Kate Taylor.