There are already ten dead. And the number is expected to increase when rescuers can enter the affected areas.
The setting on the West Coast of the United States is gruesome. the order to “evacuate now” ran like wildfire in the last hours. There are entire towns devastated by flames. Evacuees fleeing with their clothes on. Dead and missing people without a trace. The fires in California and Oregon give no truce to the firefighters, who during these hours continue to fight to stop the advance of the fire and avoid more damage and victims.
The destruction is difficult to describe, and the losses still impossible to quantify in the States on the West Coast, where there are areas that firefighters have not yet been able to access and the flames are fanned by high temperatures and intense very dry winds. In California, authorities announced that there were seven more victims, to a total of 10 confirmed dead.
The death toll could rise rapidly as there are still 16 missing persons that rescuers search in and around the area.
“We are still hoping and praying for good news,” said Jessica Fallon, who is eager to find out what happened to Sandy Butler and her husband, her husband’s grandparents. The couple called their son to tell him they were going to try escape the flames by getting into a pond, but until now it is not known what happened to them.
The authorities fear that, as the fires subside and the firefighters may advance through the most affected territories, they will begin to encounter more deaths. All because they couldn’t escape in time.
In northwestern California, the fire named August Complex Fire (August fire complex), officially became the largest in history in this state on Thursday, with a extension of 190,000 hectares.
In the so-called Creek fire, which has already consumed 70,000 hectares and sowed desolation in a forested area of California, some 360 buildings were also affected, according to California firefighters. A thousand firefighters work to extinguish the flames.
Throughout the state, more than 20 sources are active and the fire has already consumed a total of 12,500 km2 this year, a record since statistics began in 1987.
In Oregon, the situation is equally dramatic. “I want to be frank in saying that we expect to see a great loss … This could be the biggest loss of human life and properties due to wildfires in the history of our State, “State Governor Kate Brown added at a press conference.
According to a statement released by state authorities, “some 500,000 inhabitants were evacuated, and the number continues to rise.” Firefighters fight fires that run along a surface area of 365,000 hectares.
The amount of population evacuated equates to more than 10% of the population of 4.2 million from the state, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management reported Thursday night.
Throughout the affected areas, the police and firefighters asked (and in some cases begged) that people leave the place as soon as possible. For the most part, these are low-income immigrants, who have virtually no options as to where to go.
The drama of the situation is accentuated by the scene of entire families who have lost absolutely everything they have.
One of those affected is Artemio Gutiérrez, a single father of four who lost the motorhome where he lived at the hands of the flames. Gutiérrez returned to the place and, while his children were waiting for him sitting in the bed of his truck, he collected some of the few objects that remained: a ceramic jug with a smiling face, some toy houses and a cross made up of two pieces of glass melted.
Gutiérrez was working in a nearby vineyard when he saw heavy smoke creeping over the Rogue River Valley. He barely had time to pick up his children from the trailer park where they lived with dozens of Mexican families, and they escaped with the clothes they were wearing.
“I’m going to start over. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. You have to be strong in situations like this,” said Gutiérrez, who had just returned from his mother’s funeral in Mexico.