Disasters & Accidents

More than 500,000 evacuated as fires ravage Oregon

San Francisco, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- More than 500,000 of Oregon’s 4.3 million residents have been forced from their homes by wildfires that prompted authorities to declare an emergency Friday in Portland, the state’s largest city.

“Today, I issued a City of Portland Emergency Order due to the extreme wildfire conditions threatening lives and property, including wildfire threats to the City of Portland and the greater Portland Metropolitan area,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said.

Most of Medford, a city of 85,000 people near the border with California, remained under a Level Three (Go Now) evacuation order Friday as authorities continued to battle the Alameda Fire.

“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across our state,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told a press conference.

“Currently there are fires burning more than 900,000 acres (364,500 hectares). To put that into perspective, over the last 10 years, an average of 500,000 acres burn in an entire year. We’ve seen nearly double that in 3 days,” she wrote on Twitter.

As of mid-day Friday, the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington state were blamed for 17 deaths.

A dozen of those fatalities have come in California’s North Complex blaze, raging not far from the area devastated in 2018 by the Camp Fire, which wiped out the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

The dead include a 1-year-old child.

Besides drought and record heat, the flames are propagating due to high winds that make the task of firefighters even more difficult.

Wildfires have consumed more than 3 million acres (1.21 million hectares) in California so far in 2020, making it the worst year on record with what is usually the height of the fire season – October and November – still to come.

And down the length of the coast, from Los Angeles to the Canadian metropolis of Vancouver, communities not directly threatened by the flames are blanketed by smoke.

On Friday, according to Swiss air quality technology company IQAir, no major metropolitan area worldwide had worse air quality than Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver, each suffering pollution levels 10 times higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum safe daily exposure.

Next on the list was New Delhi, followed in the sixth spot by Los Angeles.

The great number of fires spread across three states is threatening to overwhelm the capacity of the various firefighting agencies. EFE arc/dr

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