Intermittent showers bring relief to flame-stricken Oregon

Intermittent showers brought some relief to flame-stricken western Oregon on Friday, helping firefighters to further subdue deadly blazes that have ravaged much of the state and choked its air with smoke for the better part of two weeks.

Wildfires  erupted in Oregon all at once across earlier this month in the midst of catastrophic lightning storms, record-breaking heat and howling winds.

Unaccustomed to cope with the magnitude of the flames, firefighters struggled initially for days to even keep pace with the blazes, before cooler, moister and less windy weather settled over the region, and reinforcements could arrive.

By Thursday, officials in Oregon, Washington state and California said they were making steady progress suppressing the fires. Brightening the outlook further, much-welcomed rains doused Oregon on Friday, even as death toll from these states rose to 35.

Thundershowers brought drenching rains to the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. helping a force of more than 6,000 firefighters make further headway against 10 major blazes still burning in Oregon.

The heavy rains also prompted flood and landslide warnings in areas where fire has stripped hillsides and canyons of vegetation.

Cooler, more favorable weather in the region since last week has already dispelled some of the smoky, polluted air and tempered the flames, enabling ground teams with axes and bulldozers to take the offensive while also allowing greater use of water-dropping helicopters and airplane tankers.

Higher humidity levels were likewise bolstering hopes for subduing blazes in the greater San Francisco Bay area.

Flames have blackened a record 3.2 million acres in California alone since mid-August. Another 1.7 million acres have burned in Oregon and Washington state since Labor Day.

Thousands of evacuees, particularly in Oregon, remained huddled in emergency shelters, mobile trailers and hotel rooms. And Oregon emergency management officials have warned the death toll there could climb as search teams scour the ruins of homes engulfed in flames during chaotic evacuations early in the disaster.