CalFire firefighters move away from the fire to monitor any stray embers during the firing process to build a Fairview fire containment line near Hemet, California, on Sept. 8, 2022.
Los Angeles (AFP) – A massive wildfire raged in Oregon on Monday, forcing residents to flee and threatening towns and thousands of homes in the latest fire to ravage the western United States during the scorching summer.
Dozens of active infernos in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and other western states have destroyed more than 1,200 square miles (3,100 square kilometers), worsening air quality and highlighting the devastating effects of more than two decades of historic drought that have left the region.
The area is dry.The Cedar Creek fire east of Eugene, Oregon, experienced “extreme” growth over the weekend and has now consumed 86,734 acres (35,100 hectares) — nearly twice the size of Washington, D.C. — with zero percent containment as of Monday, according to the National Coordination Group Wildfires (NWCG).More than 1,200 firefighters and other personnel congregate on steep mountainous terrain, mostly in the hard-to-reach US National Forest lands.
“They have built firewalls away from the edge of an active fire, along roads and driveways, where they have a better chance of successfully stopping the fire,” the NWCG stated.
Evacuations have been ordered in Lynn and Deschute counties, and Deschutes and Willamette National Forests have been closed. Authorities said more than 2,000 homes are at risk.
Firefighters pass a burning landscape from the Fairview fire inside the San Bernardino National Forest near Hemet, California on September 9, 2022.
Thick smoke covered the area and, according to the NWCG, “the smoke caused unhealthy air quality for communities east of the fire as well, including Bend,” a city that serves as a gateway to outdoor tourism.
“Get out of here as fast as I can,” Hermann Schimmel, who only moved to the small town of Westfair recently, told The Oregonian newspaper. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
Local media reported that cooler, calmer weather improved conditions somewhat later on Monday, with officials facilitating evacuation instructions in some areas.
The western United States is going through more than two decades in a historic drought that scientists say is getting worse due to man-made climate change.
Most rural areas suffer from drought, which creates conditions for hot, rapid and destructive wildfires.
– Homes under threat –
A larger fire broke out in northwest Oregon on Monday in a remote area. The Double Creek Fire, first discovered on August 30, consumed 155,000 acres and was 15 percent contained.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), there are more than 90 fires currently burning in seven states in the West: California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In this long exposure image, smoke and flames rise into the air during the Fairview fire near Hemet, California in Riverside County on September 7, 2022.
More than 1,200 square miles have been burned in total — an area larger than Yosemite National Park — the NIFC reported Sunday.
The Mosquito Fire, the largest in California currently, has engulfed 46,500 acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with many nearby towns evacuated.
The official CalFire website said that while low temperatures — after more than a week of scorching heat — slowed the progress of the fire somewhat, strong winds were pushing it to the north and northeast, threatening hundreds of homes.
On the other hand, firefighters were working to contain the main Fairview fire south of Los Angeles, which claimed two lives.
On Monday, local media reported that firefighters had the fire under control by 53 percent, raising hopes that it may slow down after rains and lower temperatures at the weekend.
Air quality alerts have been issued in Oregon, Washington and Idaho due to smoke from the fires.