Firefighters on Saturday welcomed the outbreak of massive wildfires in three western states in hot, dry weather, with US President Donald Trump saying he would travel to California to see the devastation for the first time.
Fires of the latest wildfires across the western United States this summer have destroyed thousands of homes and at least half a dozen small towns, burning a collective landscape the size of New Jersey and killing at least 26 people since early August.
After four days of dangerously hot, windy weather, a glowing hope came in the form of calm winds blowing from the sea, bringing cold, humid conditions that helped firefighters move forward against the blaze without a big check the week before.
At least six people have been killed this week in Oregon, according to the state wildfire tracking website, with dozens of people missing in three counties, Gov. Kate Brown has warned.
In California, tens of thousands of firefighters were battling 28 large wildfires as of Saturday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
‘This is a Climate Damon Emergency’
Trump is scheduled to meet with local and federal officials Monday at McClellan Park, near the Republican, California state capital Sacramento, for rallies to campaign for a re-election in November as he travels to Nevada to raise funds. He has previously been a vocal critic of California for allowing wildfires.
His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, linked the clashes to climate change on Saturday, echoing comments made a day earlier by Gavin Newsom of the California government.
“This is a Climate Damon Emergency. It’s true and it’s happening. It’s the right storm,” Newsom told reporters Friday from a mountainous area near Oroville, California.
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The entire Pacific Northwest has borne the brunt of the onslaught that began around Labor Day, darkening the sky with smoke and ash surrounding Northern California, Oregon and Washington with the world’s worst air-quality levels.
California’s deadliest wildfires in 2018 posted the worst air-quality index reading in the world at 592, according to the Purple Air monitoring site, with two of the state’s biggest fires burning on either side of it.
In California alone, 4,000 homes and other structures have been burned in the past three weeks.
In southern Oregon, the apocalyptic view of melted residential subdivisions and trailer parks along Highway 99 south of Medford is one of the most devastating areas by neighboring towns, Phoenix and Talent.
Molalla, 40 kilometers below the bottom of Portland, was a ghost town covered in ashes after being told to evacuate more than 9,000 residents, with only 30 people refusing to leave, the city fire department said.
The logging town is at the forefront of a vast evacuation zone that stretches 4.8 kilometers north of downtown Portland. The sheriff of suburban Clocamas County imposed a 10-hour curfew to prevent “increased criminal activity.”
In Portland, the Multinoma County Sheriff punished residents who set up checkpoints and stopped cars as conspiracy theories spread that anti-Trump left-wing activists were starting some fires, a claim that local officials say is baseless.
Government Brown told a news conference that more than 500,000 people were advised to pack one of the three evacuation warning levels, be vigilant, be ready to flee at a moment’s notice or leave immediately. 40,000 of them had already been ordered to leave.