Thousands of people continued their stay at shelters and cars for the second week after being displaced by deadly wildfires in Oregon. Meanwhile, fire crews battled on, and search teams scoured the ruins of incinerated homes for the missing.
President Donald Trump approved a request from Oregon’s governor for a federal disaster declaration, bolstering U.S. government assistance for emergency response and relief efforts.
Roughly 1 million acres have been blackened in Oregon, double the state’s annual average over the past decade.
At the height of the crisis there, some 500,000 residents – at least 10% of the state’s population – were under some form of evacuation alert, many forced to flee their homes as swiftly advancing flames closed in on their neighborhoods.
Dozens of fires have charred some 4.5 million acres of tinder-dry brush, grass and woodlands in Oregon, California and Washington state since August, ravaging several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 34 people.
The conflagrations, which officials and scientists have described as unprecedented in scope and ferocity, have also filled the region’s skies with smoke and soot, compounding a public health crisis already posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Satellite images showed high-altitude plumes of smoke from the fires drifting as far east as New York City and Washington, D.C., carried aloft by the jet stream.
The fires roared to life in California in mid-August, and erupted across Oregon and Washington around Labor Day last week, many of them sparked by catastrophic lightning storms and stoked by record-breaking heat waves and bouts of howling winds.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said 16,600 firefighters were still battling 25 major fires on Tuesday, after achieving full containment around the perimeter of other large blazes.
Firefighters in the San Gabriel Mountains just north of Los Angeles waged an all-out campaign to save the famed Mount Wilson Observatory and an adjacent complex of broadcast transmission towers from flames that crept to within 500 feet of the site.