The northwestern US is grappling with the aftermath of the region’s devastating wildfires. Over the weekend, the death toll rose to at least 33. Suspected arsonists were arrested.
Wildfires of historical magnitude continue to rage in the western United States, affecting the lives of millions of people. Police have already arrested suspected arsonists. According to media reports, massive clouds of smoke on Sunday made extinguishing more difficult, especially in the northwest, and threatened the health of millions of residents in the region. Oregon environmental authorities had labeled the air quality at dozens of monitoring stations around the state as “hazardous to health” or “very unhealthy,” the two worst of six alert levels.
For the metropolitan cities of Portland, Vancouver in Canada and Seattle, Washington, the website IQAir reported the worst air pollution in 96 cities worldwide on Sunday.
Burned down an area of 20,200 square kilometers
The fires also continued to burn in California. The current wildfire season there, which will likely last for weeks, is already considered the worst season on record. At Sacramento, in the center of the state, US President Donald Trump wants to attend a personal briefing on Monday for the first time this fire season.
In the three states of California, Oregon and Washington alone, the number of deaths over the weekend soared to at least 33 as a result of the fires that had been raging for weeks, television stations NBC and CNN reported. According to the New York Times, a total of about 20,200 square kilometers of forest has been burned down in recent weeks, which is roughly equivalent to the area of states such as Rhineland-Palatinate or Saxony-Anhalt.
Since the first fire broke out in mid-August, there have been 22 deaths in California, and 10 deaths have also been reported from Oregon. One victim has been confirmed so far in Washington’s northern neighbor. Dozens of people have also been reported missing in the three states along the coast, and local authorities fear more deaths.
“A wake-up call that we must do everything”
Tens of thousands of people have already had to leave their homes to flee the flames, and hundreds of thousands in Oregon alone depend on at least preparing for an evacuation. However, according to The Oregonian newspaper, evacuation warning levels have eased in some areas.
Because the view is seriously obstructed by the smoke, people are nevertheless instructed not to drive. In Oregon and California, authorities also hoped for a relaxation due to favorable winds, possible rain and cooler temperatures.
Twice as much as in an average year
“This is a wake-up call that we must do everything we can to combat climate change,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said at CBS on Sunday. Scientists believe the climate crisis will exacerbate extreme weather events that contribute to more violent wildfires. In Oregon, about 4,000 square miles of forest burned down – twice as much as in an average year.
According to media reports, police have arrested suspected arsonists in some locations. Oregon authorities said fears of looting were unfounded, with only a few attempted thefts.