Thousands of evacuees displaced by deadly wildfires in Oregon settled into a second week of life in shelters and car camping as fire crews battled on, and search teams scoured the ruins of incinerated homes for the missing.
With state resources stretched to their limit, Donald Trump approved a request from Oregon’s governor for a federal disaster declaration, bolstering US government assistance for emergency response and relief efforts.
In Los Angeles, firefighters waged an all-out campaign to save the famed Mount Wilson Observatory from flames that crept to within 500ft of the site.
Dozens of fires have charred some 4.5m acres of tinder-dry brush, grass and woodlands in Oregon, California and Washington state since August, ravaging several small towns, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 34 people.
Eight deaths have been confirmed during the past week in Oregon, which became the latest and most concentrated hotspot in a larger summer outbreak of fires across the entire western US.
The confirmed death toll from the North Complex fire in Oroville, California, rose to 15 on Tuesday – putting it among the top five deadliest fires in the state. At least 25 people have perished in California wildfires over the past four weeks.
A total of 3.4m acres – more than any single year in its history – have burned so far this year in California, 2.8m acres in just the last month, said Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, at a press conference on Wednesday.
More than 4,200 homes and other buildings statewide have gone up in smoke.
Newsom has repeatedly pointed to the climate crisis as exacerbating the “megafires” of this year’s season – this time last year, wildfires had not even burned 5% of the acreage that has been scorched in 2020.
“There are no Democratic thermometers or Republican thermometers,” he tweeted. “The fact is our average temperature has increased over the last 40 years. We’re experiencing record temperatures across CA. The hottest August on record. The evidence of climate change is all around us.”