Fire-hardened western United States is waiting for milder weather

More than 20,000 firefighters fought the flames that ravaged the American West on Friday. The rescue service expects cooler and wetter weather to take a break this weekend.

Driven for several days by chronic drought and strong winds, the fires from the Canadian border set Mexico’s sad record. A total of sixteen victims were identified this week but it was impossible to assess the true extent of the destruction, large areas are still inaccessible.

“We expect the number of (dead) to increase as we return to areas ravaged by flames,” warned California Gov. Newsom Govin Newsom after handing over the glowing remnants of a charred forest in the northern state.

It was there, in Butte County, still traumatized by the memory of the November 2018 fires that left 86 people dead and burned the city of Paradise to ashes, that at least ten people died in the flames this week, according to the latest relief report.

In northwestern California, the fire was called the “August Complex Fire”, an assembly of 37 fires that affected the Mendocino Forest from August 17, officially the largest in the history of that state. with over 300,000 hectares burned.

“Cooler air and humidity in the coming days”

These fires benefited from high temperatures and a very dry atmosphere, but Governor Newsom welcomed the weather, which “began to cooperate”, with gusts of wind and some precipitation expected in the coming days.

Two other people were killed in another fire that raged for several days in an isolated area near Oregon, further north, a spokeswoman for the California Fire Brigade told AFP.

Even in Oregon, officials were hopeful of better weather. “We expect cooler air and humidity in the coming days, which is really good news,” said Gov. Kate Brown, detailing the evacuations underway in her state.

If the areas threatened by the dozens of ongoing fires affect a total of 500,000 residents, more than 40,000 people would have actually been evacuated on Friday at noon, says Kate Brown. Depending on the degree of danger, evacuation instructions vary from preparation of essential goods and documents to immediate departure.

In total, more than 400,000 acres were crossed by the flames in Oregon, where three dead were registered by the helpers, who are without news from dozens of other people.

“It’s a fucking climate situation”

“I would like the 2020 fires to be just an anomaly, unique episodes. Unfortunately, they are just forerunners of the future,” lamented Kate Brown. The governor pointed out that in just three days, the flames had consumed 360,000 hectares, which was twice as much vegetation burning on average for an entire year.

“We are seeing the devastating effects of climate change in Oregon, on the west coast and around the world,” she insisted.

“I’m a little tired of having to discuss this topic,” says Gavin Newsom. “It’s a fucking climate crisis, it’s real and it’s happening right now,” insisted the governor of California, where more than 1.2 million acres have already gone up in smoke this year.

The fire season, which often lasts until November, is still far from over.

With AFP