In California, Oregon and Washington state the fire caused unprecedented destruction. Thousands of evacuees and at least 16 dead.
Dozens of wildfires continue to rage this weekend on the west coast of U.S, where at least 16 people died this week and more than half a million were called to leave their homes to flee the flames.
A chronic drought and strong winds They fuel the fires scattered from the state of Washington, on the border with Canada, to the Californian city of San Diego, on the border with Mexico. But it is still impossible to assess the true scope of the destruction, which occurs amid the coronavirus pandemic that hits the country, and which has already set records.
In northwestern California, the August Complex Fire, which started in August with a series of lightning strikes in the Mendocino forests, officially became the largest in history in this state, with more than 302,000 hectares burned.
Authorities confirmed 12 deaths in California, three in Oregon and one in Washington state, that of a one-year-old baby, but fear more fatalities as large areas remained inaccessible to firefighters and rescuers.
Faced with the virulence of the flames, the residents, who in some cases are submerged in a thick orange fog and breathe an air laden with ashes, they are often forced to flee in a few minutes.
“I panicked. I checked that all the children were in the car, then we threw our things in the trunk. And that’s all we had time to do,” Jamie Smith, a refugee in a hotel in Fresno, told AFP. California.
In California, where residents remain traumatized by the memory of the November 2018 fires that killed 86 people and burned the city of Paradise to ashes, humidity is expected to rise and the temperature to drop next week. , providing some relief.
In the neighboring state of Oregon, more than 500,000 people have also had to leave everything to flee the 360,000 hectares in the flames, something never seen before.
In Molalla, south of Portland, the police went house to house to convince neighbors to leave the area.
“It’s very tough,” Denise Pentz told AFP while loading her belongings on a trailer. “My children grew up here. It is my home, but the most important thing is that we are all safe.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the area burned in just the last 72 hours is twice the state’s annual average and that at least five towns were “substantially destroyed”.
“I wish the 2020 fires were just an anomaly, unique episodes. Unfortunately, they are only harbingers of the future,” he said.
“We are seeing the devastating effects of climate change in Oregon, on the West Coast and around the world,” he added.
More than 200,000 hectares were burned in Washington state, according to Governor Jay Inslee, who also denounced the catastrophic consequences of global warming.
“We know why the ground becomes drier and the temperature rises, and even the wind increases,” he told reporters.
In the western United States, the wildfire season typically lasts from August through November, raising fears of further violent episodes.