Fires have killed at least 28 people in the three contiguous West Coast states since mid-August, including 19 in California, many of them in the past few days.
Thousands have fled their homes in Oregon alone, including Lori Johnson, who was woken up in the middle of the night by law enforcement shortly before fire would consume her home in Mill City.
The sheer number of blazes is taxing the resources used to battle them. Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Robert Garcia told CNN Saturday that his department is currently fighting fires with 500 personnel, when they usually have 1,000 to 1,500.
“This system is very, very well taxed right now with a number of large fires that are that are scattered, but particularly in California,” Garcia said, adding that it’s common for firefighters to work over 24 hours on a shift until relief comes.
With the current strain on the system, though, Garcia said “that relief isn’t coming in necessarily in 24 hours. So we’re having to find ways to maximize rest periods throughout the day.”
At least eight of Oregon’s wildfires are expected to burn “until the winter’s rains fall,” Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Chief Doug Grafe said Friday.
Oregon prepares for ‘mass fatality incident’
In Oregon’s Clackamas and Marion counties south of Portland, smoke was so thick that it was difficult to see more than 10 feet ahead Saturday morning.
Carolee Brown told CNN she has relocated twice this week because of evacuation orders. She’s been losing sleep, constantly monitoring her home’s security camera online to see if it’s still standing. As of Saturday morning, it was.
“It’s unreal. You can’t really fathom what is going on,” she told CNN in Marion County. “You take what you think (you should), and you just get out.”
Two other victims were located but have not been recovered due to “treacherous conditions,” the release said.
The state is preparing for a “mass fatality incident” based on how many structures have been charred, Oregon Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said Friday.
Already, dozens are missing, the state’s governor said, mostly across Jackson, Lane and Marion counties in western Oregon.
The Beachie Creek Fire is the largest in the state and has no containment, officials say. Firefighters are racing to slow the blaze down before it merges with the nearby Riverside Fire, which has burned more than 130,000 acres.
‘Never seen anything like this’
Just northeast of Los Angeles, the Bobcat Fire is tearing through the mountainous Angeles National Forest — and contributing to smoky air in the area.
“Thirty-plus years ago, I quit smoking. But I’ve started again in the last six days just from (breathing) the air,” Mike Day, of nearby Monrovia, told CNN on Saturday.
That fire has killed at least nine people, including a 16-year-old boy who was fleeing the area in his vehicle, Butte County authorities say. More than a dozen were missing, the sheriff’s office said this week.
John Tripp, who evacuated his home in Butte County, says he has no idea what he’ll find when he returns.
“California is in the midst of an existential climate crisis,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday. “It was just two years ago that this area saw the deadliest wildfire in our history. Now, just a few miles away, another deadly wildfire has ripped through these same communities.”
“There is no doubt — climate change is here, and it is happening faster than most had anticipated,” he said.
Five people have died in the LNU Lightning Complex fire which is burning in Colusa, Lake, Napa, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties, according to CalFire.
The CZU August Lightning Complex in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties has killed one person, another person has died in the August Complex Fire in Tehama County and two people died in the Slate Fire in Siskiyou County, CalFire’s update said.
President Donald Trump will visit California on Monday to get a briefing from local and federal emergency officials, the White House said Saturday. He’s expected to be at McClellan Park in Sacramento County, some 70 miles south of the North Complex Fire.
80% of buildings in eastern Washington town destroyed
“When I look in the eyes of people who lost their home and see their tears, I think these people deserve a response to try to protect them and to try to remove the threats.”
The family was visiting their property in a rural area west of Spokane and evacuated in the middle of the night when the wildfire got closer. They abandoned their vehicle and ran to a river to flee the menacing flames, CNN affiliate KCRA reported. The couple was rescued from the river but their son did not make it.
CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Camila Bernal, Stella Chan, Sarah Moon, Raja Razek, Hollie Silverman, Chandler Thornton and Paul Vercammen contributed to this report.