Oregon Governor Kate Brown on Friday said dozens of people were missing and tens of thousands displaced because of wildfires that threatened to merge near the most populous area of the state, including the suburbs of its largest city Portland, AP reported.
Brown said that more than 40,000 residents of the state have been evacuated and around 5,00,000 are in different levels of evacuation zones, either prepared to leave or been told to do so. She further asked residents to keep away from the fire zones, where incidents of looting have also emerged, BBC reported.
“I know that rumours of looting are extremely alarming and that it’s unsettling not to know whether your home is still standing,” she said. “Let me assure you that we have the Oregon National Guard and Oregon State Police monitoring the situation and preventing looting.” Authorities have said a man has been arrested for allegedly starting a fire in southern Oregon on Tuesday.
At least four people have been killed in Oregon and 11 in other parts of the country, taking the total number of deaths in the United States’ West Coast to 15. More than a hundred fires are blazing through 12 states in the country.
Oregon’s emergency management director Andrew Phelps said officials were “preparing for a mass fatality event”, adding that thousands of structures have been destroyed. Other structures, including the Oregon Convention Centre in Portland, were being converted into evacuation centres.
Firefighters in the states were battling 16 blazes in the state, said Oregon’s forestry department fire protection chief Doug Grafe, adding that rising humidity and shifting winds were helpful in their efforts.
A man was arrested for allegedly starting a fire on Tuesday. The investigating officers, however, said that arrest was different from the Almeda fire, the most destructive blaze in state that has been linked with at least two death and destruction of hundreds of home in Phoenix and Talent towns.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee called the fires “climate fires”. “This is not an act of God,” Inslee said. “This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways.”
Further, nine of the 10 hottest years on record happened after 2005. The temperature in both Oregon and California have risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1900.
Apart from Oregon, California and Washington are also badly affected.
In California, the toll continued to rise with authorities finding 10 more bodies in the last two days and at least 16 others were reported missing. At least 20 people have died in the state since August 15, when the fires first began.
In Washington, the state’s largest wildfire in Okanogan county led to the death of a one-year-old boy. His parents remain in critical condition. In eastern Washington, a fire has destroyed most of Malden town.