US wildfires: ‘Red flag’ alerts as authorities warn winds are making blazes worse

Areas from southern Oregon to Northern California on high alert

Louise Boyle
New York
Monday 14 September 2020 14:59
Wildfire death toll climbs as blazes continue to rage in US

Strong winds have led authorities to issue “red flag” warnings across the American West as dozens of wildfires continue to rage.

Low moisture and increased gusts could fan the flames in areas from hard-hit southern Oregon to Northern California. Authorities warned of the increased threat level over the next 24 hours. 

Wildfires have killed at least 35 people from California to Washington state as fire crews continue to battle to get the blazes under control. 

Nearly all the dozens of people reported missing after a devastating blaze in southern Oregon have been accounted for, authorities said over the weekend.

The flames up and down the West Coast have destroyed neighborhoods, leaving nothing but charred rubble and burned-out cars, forced tens of thousands to flee and cast a shroud of smoke that has given Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, some of the worst air quality in the world.

However the smoke is helping firefighters by blocking the sun and turning the weather cooler as they tried to get a handle on the blazes, which were slowing in some places.

At least 10 people have been killed in the past week throughout Oregon. Officials have said more people are missing from other fires, and the number of fatalities is likely to rise, though they have not said how high the toll could go as they search. 

In California, 24 people have died, and one in Washington state. Thousands of homes and other buildings have burned.

Burning fossil fuels is driving global heating and intensifying the climate crisis. Rising temperatures and drier conditions are contributing factors to more prolonged and severe wildfires. 

The Democratic governors of all three states say the fires are a consequence of the climate crisis, taking aim at President Trump ahead of his visit on Monday to California for a fire briefing.

“It is maddening right now that when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire West Coast of the United States on fire, to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

At a rally in Nevada, Trump blamed inadequate forest management, which White House adviser Peter Navarro echoed on CNN’s “State of the Union,” saying that for many years in California, “particularly because of budget cutbacks, there was no inclination to manage our forests.”

Wires contributed to this report

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