By WILLIAM MANSELL, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — At least eight people in Oregon, California and Washington are dead as a result of the devastating wildfires ravaging the West Coast and the destruction and death toll are only anticipated to get worse, according to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
There are 37 active fires, with more than 672,000 acres burned in the state as of early Thursday morning, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. The Oregon wildfires have chewed through about 500 square miles since Monday.
Tens of thousands of residents remain evacuated and the fires have destroyed thousands of structures in their paths, according to authorities.
“Over the last 24 hours, Oregon has experienced unprecedented fires, with devastating consequences across the state,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “Our number-one priority right now is saving lives. This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfires in our state’s history.”
So far at least three deaths have been reported in Oregon; two in Marion County in the Santiam Fire and one in the town of Medford in the Almeda Fire.
The Almeda Fire, which is located in Jackson County in the southern part of the state, has devastated the towns of Phoenix and Talent, where hundreds of homes and businesses are destroyed. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said more deaths are expected.
Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler said a criminal investigation has been launched at the origin point of the Almeda Fire, where human remains were found.
Many of the fires in Oregon are still 0% contained, including the Beachie Creek and Riverside fires, which have burned more than 158,000 and 112,000 acres, respectively.
Other major fires include the Lionhead Fire, which is more than 109,000 acres and is 5% contained and the Archie Creek Fire that has burned 68,000 acres and is only 1% contained.
In Clackamas County, Oregon, four fires have forced thousands to evacuate. The blazes there have destroyed 230 structures, including at least 16 homes, with another 600 threatened. The entire county is under some type of evacuation order.
The destruction has led Oregon lawmakers to plead with President Donald Trump to approve emergency disaster funding to aid the state’s battle with the wildfires.
“It is imperative that the federal government support these local communities with the resources they need …Given the severity and speed with which these fires are spreading across my district, I urge you to expedite the declaration process to ensure that Oregonians have the resources they need to respond to and recover quickly from these devastating wildfires,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, along with other Oregon lawmakers, wrote in a letter to Trump.
His thoughts were echoed by Sen. Jeff Merkley.
“The number and scale of fires burning in Oregon is unprecedented, and Oregonians who are suffering need immediate relief,” the senator tweeted. “I’m leading the congressional delegation in pushing for the federal assistance that we need to manage and recover from this crisis.”
South of Oregon, the Golden State’s sky is eerily orange and red as it battles its own destructive wildfires. There are more than two dozen active fires in California.
The massive Creek Fire in Fresno County is more than 166,000 acres and is still 0% contained. It has forced more than 45,000 people to evacuate and has already destroyed 365 structures.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that the remains of three people have been discovered, two in the same location and one at a separate location. Their bodies have not yet been identified. Another 12 people are unaccounted for, he said.
Elsewhere in California, the Slater Fire has destroyed more than 150 homes and caused at least one death. It is currently 30,000 acres. The Valley Fire is 17,000 acres and is 27% contained.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the viral images of an orange sky in San Francisco and other parts of the state are a “cry out for change.” He said to help prevent future wildfires all levels of government must step up to fight climate change.
“CA has invested more in wildfire prevention than any time in our history. Enacted bold climate policies. But it’s not enough,” the governor tweeted. “We must do more. We need action at EVERY level. CA cannot do this alone. Climate change is REAL. So please — VOTE.”
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