Dozens of people remain unaccounted for as deadly wildfires scorch Western states


(CNN)Dozens of wildfires tearing through communities across the West have left at least 33 people dead, and authorities fear dozens more are missing and unaccounted for.

Of the people killed since some of the fires broke out in mid-August, 22 have been in California, many of them in the past few days. Ten people have been killed in Oregon and one child was killed in Washington state.
Across the West, 97 large fires were burning Saturday, including 12 in Idaho and nine in Montana, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Smoke from the massive blazes is making the air quality unhealthy, federal air quality monitors warned. That can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation, which can affect the immune system, making people more at risk of lung infections such as coronavirus.

California: Three of the state’s five largest wildfires burning now

In California, firefighters are battling more than two dozen major fires across the state, but officials expressed hope that improving weather conditions will boost firefighters’ efforts to control the flames.
Three of the five largest wildfires in the state’s history are burning now, officials say.
Little rain, high temperatures and strong winds helped set the stage for the flames and fuel them. And it may take a long time for them to stop.
The sheer number of blazes is taxing the resources used to battle them. Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia told CNN Saturday that his department is fighting fires with 500 personnel, when they usually have 1,000 to 1,500.
“This system is very, very well taxed right now with a number of large fires that are scattered, but particularly in California,” Garcia said, adding that it’s common for firefighters to work over 24 hours on a shift until relief comes.
More than 16,200 firefighters have been assigned to battle fires statewide, Cal Fire Spokesman Steve Kaufmann said during a news conference Saturday night.
Just northeast of Los Angeles, the Bobcat Fire is tearing through the mountainous Angeles National Forest — and contributing to smoky air in the area.
Fires in the state have burned more than 3.2 million acres so far this year and more than 4,500 structures have been destroyed since August 15, Cal Fire says.
In the Sierra Nevada range north of Sacramento, the North Complex Fire has torn through the Berry Creek community and Plumas National Forest since a lightning storm sparked it August 17, consuming more than 258,000 acres.
That fire has killed at least 12 people, the US Forest Service said in a statement Saturday night. The victims include a 16-year-old boy who was fleeing the area in his vehicle, Butte County authorities say. More than a dozen were missing, the sheriff’s office said this week.
Berry Creek’s only store — the Village Market — was destroyed in the fire, CNN affiliate KPIX reported Saturday.
“I cried. I cried for long time,” KPIX quoted owner Mitch Dorghalli as saying. “(It was) the worst day in my life when I heard that news.”

Oregon: State official prepares for ‘mass fatality incident’

At least eight of Oregon’s wildfires are expected to burn “until the winter’s rains fall,” said the state’s Department of Forestry Fire Chief Doug Grafe.
In Oregon’s Clackamas and Marion counties south of Portland, smoke was so thick that it was difficult to see more than 10 feet ahead Saturday.
Four of the 10 people killed in Oregon’s wildfires died in the Beachie Creek Fire in Marion County.
Two victims identified by the Marion County Medical Examiner’s Office were Wyatt Tofte, 13, and Peggy Mosso, 71, both of Lyons, Oregon, more than 60 miles southeast of Portland.
Wyatt was found in a car with his dog in his lap while Mosso, his grandmother, was found in another car nearby. Her daughter and Wyatt’s mother, Angela, attempted to save her and was badly burned. Two other victims were located but have not been recovered due to treacherous conditions.
Four people died in the Almeda Drive fire, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Mike Moran told CNN.
Dozens of people are missing, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said, mostly across Jackson, Lane and Marion counties in western Oregon. The state is preparing for a “mass fatality incident” based on how many structures have been charred, Oregon Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said.
About 500,000 people in the state are under some type of evacuation alert. Actual evacuation orders have been issued for more than 40,000, according to the governor.

Washington: 80% of buildings in eastern town destroyed

The past five days in Washington have made for the state’s second worst fire season in history, the governor said. As of Saturday, 15 major fires were burning in the state.
Elsewhere in Washington, a 1-year-old boy died and his parents were badly burned as they tried to escape the wildfire, officials said.
The family was visiting their property in a rural area west of Spokane and evacuated in the middle of the night when the wildfire got closer. They abandoned their vehicle and ran to a river to flee the menacing flames, CNN affiliate KCRA reported. The couple was rescued from the river but their son did not make it.
Another child was killed in the Cold Springs Fire in Omak, near the Canadian border, according to officials.
“My heart breaks for the family of the child who perished in the Cold Springs fire. I am devastated. The DNR family is devastated. The pain that family is going through is unfathomable,” Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a statement on social media Friday.
Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee visited Malden, a small town in eastern Washington, where 80% of the city’s buildings — including the fire station, post office, city hall and library — were completely destroyed.
“It looked like a bomb went off,” city officials said, according to CNN affiliate KIRO.


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