The fires, which started in California on Friday after a scorching heatwave and have now spread up the West Coast, burned homes to the ground and left a path of devastation in their wake.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said this was the “largest fire season we’ve had in recent recorded history” as he declared a state of emergency. He blamed the cause of the fires on “unprecedented temperatures, a heat dome, 14,000 lightning strikes over a 24-hour period and 150 million-plus dead trees related to a multi-year drought”.
A heat dome occurs when hot ocean air is trapped by the atmosphere, and caused by a change in ocean temperatures. The Creek Fire in Northern California burnt through 152,833 acres in just three days, Cal Fire said. They reported 65 homes, businesses and other buildings have been destroyed by the blaze.
Further north, Malden, Washington was left 80 per cent destroyed, residents said, while in Oregon 80,000 people had to be urgently evacuated from their homes on Tuesday. Forest Service regional forecaster Randy Moore warned the fires are expected to get worse.
“The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” he told AP. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behaviour, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.” Cal Fire said the Creek Fire had got worse in the last day due to strong winds.
In Malden, Washington, Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers spoke about the devastation the fires had caused. “The scale of this disaster really can’t be expressed in words. The fire will be extinguished, but a community has been changed for a lifetime. I just hope we don’t find the fire took more than homes and buildings,” he said. “I pray everyone got out in time.”