Source: Niamh Harris
Half a million people have been forced to evacuate in the US state of Oregon as deadly wildfires, not seen in decades, rage across the Pacific northwest.
At least 15 people have been killed and entire neighborhoods leveled as the uncontolled blazes spread through America’s West.
Wildfires are also wreaking havoc in several states including California, Washington and Colorado.
Press TV reports: State officials said on Thursday that 500,000 people were evacuated as dozens of blazes are sweeping Oregon, with some of them suspected to have deliberately been set.
The number of those evacuated amounts to over 10% of the state’s 4.2 million population.
The blazes have burnt more than 900,000 acres in the last few days, according to Governor Kate Brown.
“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state,” she said. “This will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is the bellwether of the future. We’re feeling the acute impacts of climate change,” she added.
Brown said there are known fatalities as a result of the fires, but the exact number of lives lost remains unknown. A 12-year-old boy and his grandmother are confirmed to be among the Oregon victims.
Over 17,000 firefighters are currently struggling to contain the blaze.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management said wildfire activity was made even more dangerous in northwestern Oregon as hot, windy conditions continued.
Three law enforcement agencies in Oregon, including the Ashland Police Department and the State Police, have opened an investigation into the suspicious origins of the wildfire that began in the town of Ashland and destroyed hundreds of homes.
“We have good reason to believe that there was a human element to it,” said Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara.
More than 100 wildfires are currently scorching 12 western US states, including Oregon, California and Washington.
In California, smoke from wildfires turned skies orange on Thursday. A least 10 deaths have been confirmed in the state so far.
Authorities in Butte County north of Sacramento have found 10 bodies in the last two days. They said there are fears the toll will rise as 16 people remain unaccounted for.
Some 64,000 people were under evacuation orders, while at least 14,000 firefighters were battling 29 major fires across the state.
California has been battling a barrage of fires since August.
In Washington, fires have burned nearly 2,426 kilometres, according to governor Jay Inslee, who described the blaze as one of “the most catastrophic fires we’ve had in the history of the state.”
“We’ve had this trauma all over Washington,” he said. “California, Oregon, Washington, we are all in the same soup of cataclysmic fire.”
In the farm town of Malden in the east of the state, where a fire destroyed most of the homes, police ran through the streets shouting at residents to flee for their lives. More than 80% of homes in Malden have been destroyed.
A one-year-old boy died and his parents were in a critical condition as they were overrun by fires, while trying to flee, according to officials in the northern county of Okanogan.