At least 23 people have died in the unprecedented wave of wildfires sweeping the US West Coast since August
Firefighting and forensic teams continued on Sunday the search and recovery of fatalities from the wave of fires that has swept across Oregon and California in the last two weeks. The hundred active fires that came to be simultaneously has dropped to around 60. The two areas where the search for bodies is concentrated are rural districts devastated in a matter of hours around Medford, in southern Oregon, and Chico, in Northeast California. The number of bodies recovered from the fires stood at at least 23, mostly in California.
More than 1.2 million hectares have burned in California since the fire wave began in the wake of a thunderstorm in late August. It is an absolute record that exceeds the previous one by more than 20 times. One of the fires, a fire with multiple sources called the August Complex, has burned 342,700 hectares until Sunday and is already the most extensive in the history of the State, although the situation is so dramatic that the data has gone practically unnoticed. The previous record was from 2018. The third and fourth largest fires in history are also from this year and are still active. Between California, Oregon and the State of Washington, the West Coast has already burned an area equivalent to the State of New Jersey.
In the vicinity of Medford, Oregon, authorities have been warning for four days that they do not know how many deaths are under the ashes of several towns destroyed by flames in a sudden fire from which many residents of rural districts were allegedly unable to escape. A similar situation exists around Salem, south of Portland, the scene of one of the largest fires. The Oregon Emergency Director said they are preparing to make this a “multi-casualty event” when they have access to all damaged areas. The governor has also been warning for days that there will be more deaths. At least 60,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Oregon and up to 500,000 live in threatened areas.
The strong gusts of wind that have been stoking the fires for days gave a break over the weekend, which the firefighters tried to take advantage of to gain meters of containment. However, the forecast is that it will blow again in the next few days, with no possibility of rain on the near horizon. The heat wave, the third factor that joined the wind and lightning to start a hundred fires at once, has already subsided.
The fires are also causing unprecedented levels of danger in the air in many places on the West Coast, where you cannot see the sun. Coastal and nature-surrounded places like Portland, Vancouver and Seattle had the worst air quality in the world on Saturday, according to the IQair portal. San Francisco or Los Angeles are registering worse air quality than Beijing.
While tens of thousands of people sleep outside their homes without knowing if they will return to them, a new electoral campaign issue begins to emerge from the ashes. The three affected States are the democrat wall from West. All three governors are Democrats, legislatures have a Democratic majority, and all six senators are Democrats. Everyone has come out these days to blame climate change for the fires getting worse and worse. Donald Trump, whose record on this matter has been consistently reversing any environmental breakthrough, has called it mismanagement of forests. Trump will visit California on Monday. The shock in the next few days is served.