Dozens of extreme wind-driven wildfires have burned through forests and towns in US West Coast states, destroying hundreds of homes and killing at least nine people.
In the past 48 hours, four people died from fires in California, while three were killed in Oregon and a one-year-old boy died in Washington state, police reported.
The infant’s parents were in critical condition with burns after the family tried to flee the state’s largest wildfire, which is burning in mountains about 160 kilometres north-west of Spokane, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office said.
Up and down the west coast, thousands more people have faced evacuation orders in the three states as nearly 100 major wildfires burn.
Oregon is bearing the brunt of deadly fires, with about 3000 firefighters battling nearly three dozen wildfires.
The blazes have torn through at least five communities in Oregon’s Cascade mountain range, as well as areas of coastal rainforest that normally spared from wildfires. In eastern Washington state, a fire destroyed most of the farming town of Malden.
- See a gallery of images from the deadly blazes here
In central Oregon, search and rescue teams entered torched communities such as Detroit, where firefighters led residents on a dramatic mountain escape after military helicopters were unable to evacuate the town.
A 12-year-old boy was found dead with his dog inside a burned car and his grandmother was believed to have succumbed after flames engulfed an area near Lyons, about 80 kilometres south of Portland, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.
To the south, a Reuters photographer saw small communities near Medford, including Bear Lake Estates, reduced to ashes as he drove south on Interstate 5 towards Ashland.
Firefighters said unusually hot, dry winds out of the east supercharged blazes, spreading flames from community to community, and then from house to house.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said up to 40,000 people had evacuated across the state where 365,000 hectares had burned, dwarfing Oregon’s average 202,000 hectare full-year total.
“We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state,” Ms Brown said.
“We are feeling the acute impacts of climate change.”
Firefighters expected two of the state’s largest fires, burning about 40 kilometres south-east of Portland, to merge. Nearby Molalla, with about 10,000 residents, was evacuated, and 18,000 people in Canby, a community about 16 kilometres from central Portland, was told to be ready to leave.
In California, officials said 64,000 people were under evacuation orders while crews battled 29 major fires across portions of the most populous US state.
Wildfires have burned more than 1.2 million hectares in California in 2020, marking a record for any year. Six of the top 20 largest wildfires in state history have occurred this year.