News World US Infant among dead as US fire toll mounts

Infant among dead as US fire toll mounts

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At least six people, including a one-year-old baby, are reported to have died in unprecedented US wildfires. Authorities warn that more deaths are likely as so many areas are impossible to reach.

The fires have already all but destroyed five small north-western towns, with a record number of deaths feared.

The six fatalities recorded on Wednesday reportedly include a one-year-old baby boy whose parents suffered severe burns while trying to escape a blaze 200 kilometres east of Seattle, in Washington state.

Three people have died in Northern California, one person found in a car apparently having tried to escape the flames.

The Northern California inferno has forced thousands of people from their homes while carving a 40km path of destruction through mountainous terrain and parched foothills.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the blaze northeast of San Francisco.

Two more deaths were confirmed in the Santiam Canyon region, 95 kilometres south of Portland, Oregon.

Oregon is the hardest hit state, with nearly 100 extreme wildfires stoked by high winds and temperatures.

The towns of Detroit in central Oregon, Blue River and Vida in coastal Lane County and Phoenix and Talent in southern Oregon had been substantially destroyed, Governor Kate Brown said on Wednesday (US time).

“This could be the greatest loss in human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history,” Ms Brown said.

She gave no indication of how many people may have died but one of Oregon’s most deadly blazes was in 1936 when a fire destroyed the city of Brandon and killed 13 people.

Firefighters in Oregon, California and Washington have retreated from uncontrolled blazes that forced tens of thousands to evacuate homes and hundreds of thousands to lose power in the three states.

“We are not getting any relief from the weather conditions,” Ms Brown said.

“Winds continue to feed these fires and push them into our towns and cities.

Officials are still calling for mass evacuations as more than 120,000 hectares is consumed by fire.

“It was like driving through hell,” Jody Evans told local television station NewsChannel21 after evacuating Detroit, 80 kilometres west of Salem.

Ms Evans fled the largest blaze in the state, known as the Beachie Fire, which threatened to join up with another blaze to the west, known as the Lionshead Fire.

Mill City, an Oregon town with about 1900 residents 24 kilometres west of Detroit, had major damage on its outskirts and homes destroyed along the Santiam River, according to the mayor, NewsChannel21 reported.

To the south, parts of Medford, Oregon, a popular retirement location with over 80,000 residents in the scenic Rogue Valley, were under evacuation orders or warnings as a growing wildfire closed a section of Interstate 5, the area’s primary north-south highway.

The fire moved north to Medford from Ashland, where it started on Tuesday. The blaze did little damage to Ashland, home to the historic stages of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

But as the blaze moved northward, it heavily damaged the small towns of Talent with about 6000 residents and Phoenix, with about 5000, according to local police.

Fires also forced people to flee homes in Idaho but a blast of polar air thankfully helped slow fires in Colorado and Montana.

-with agencies