By Marc Arcas
San Francisco, US, Sep 10 (efe-epa).- Dozens of wildfires along the entire west coast of the United States have claimed the lives of at least 15 people in recent hours, while hundreds of thousands have evacuated in the states of California, Oregon and Washington.
The fatalities, reported by various local authorities throughout Thursday, are a 1-year-old boy, a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother in Washington state, three people in Oregon and 11 more in California.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported Thursday that the August Complex blaze, one of the many burning in the state, is now officially the largest recorded in its recent history.
The fire, which is advancing in the Mendocino National Forest, was declared on Aug. 17 after a lightning strike, and has since destroyed 190,700 hectares and claimed the life of one person. So far, firefighters have only managed to contain 24 percent of it.
It is the latest record in an extremely bad fire season in the state, with 2020 also the year with the largest burned area on record (900,000 hectares), despite it only being mid-September.
The worst time for California fires is usually October and November – the months of extreme dryness – so if the trend continues, the worst could be yet to come.
In addition to California, the other two states on the west coast of the United States, Washington and especially Oregon, are also suffering a wave of fires due to the dryness and intense heat experienced last weekend when temperatures in many places exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.
In Oregon, the Almeda Drive fire has forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people in the south (including the entire 85,000 population of Medford) and has destroyed more than 600 homes. About 360 kilometers to the south, in California, the North Complex fire has forced another 20,000 to evacuate.
This latest fire is affecting an area that has already suffered the devastating effects of the Camp fire in 2018, the deadliest in the history of California, and which claimed the lives of 85 people and almost completely engulfed the town of Paradise.
In addition to the heat and dryness, strong winds are spreading the fires at high speed and making the work of firefighters enormously difficult. They are not expected to ease in the immediate future.
It is also the winds that are helping to cover the skies of the entire region with smoke, and on Wednesday it mixed with the fog in the San Francisco Bay area, and colored the sky bright orange.
The large number of active fires and the fact that they are taking place in so many different places at the same time is depleting the resources of the fire brigades, which routinely turn to the help of other jurisdictions when faced with a large fire, something that is now proving very complicated. EFE-EPA