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Main wildfires sweep California, Oregon, and Washington because the loss of life toll rises

Ashley [3] and Ethan [2] look at a burned bike after wildfires destroyed a neighborhood in Bear Creek, Phoenix, Oregon, USA on September 10, 2020.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

Dozens of major forest fires burn the west coast of the United States, destroying hundreds of homes and devastating neighborhoods in two Oregon cities.

More than 3 million acres have burned down in California, a record in the state's history. The August Complex, which began after a string of lightning strikes last month, has grown to become the largest wildfire in California history.

The Ashland Police Department in Oregon has opened an arson investigation into the Almeda fire that killed two people and decimated two cities. The death toll from the Almeda fire is expected to rise as search teams investigate the destruction.

Four people died in the Oregon fires and a 1-year-old boy died in the flames in Washington state. A fire has killed at least 10 people in California, the Butte County Sheriff's office reported Thursday evening. Officials are still looking for missing people. So far there have been at least 20 deaths from the fires, and the death toll is expected to rise.

This aerial view of a drone shows homes destroyed by fire on September 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Oregon. Hundreds of houses in the city have been lost to wildfire.

David Ryder | Getty Images

Approximately 500,000 people are under evacuation orders in Oregon, about an eighth of the state's total population, as the state fights nearly three dozen fires.

The flames also devastated entire communities in Oregon, including Detroit; Blue River and Vida; and phoenix and talent. In Washington state, fires destroyed most homes in the city of Malden.

Portland General Electric has received unconfirmed reports that some fires in Oregon may have been started by electrical equipment struck by high winds and debris. The company's shares fell after CNBC reported the news on Thursday.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said more than 900,000 acres were burned in her state, well above the state's annual average of 500,000 acres.

"We have never seen so much uncontrolled fire across the state," Brown said at a news conference Thursday. "We are feeling the acute effects of climate change."

A Coulson 737 fire fighting tanker drops fire retardant to slow the Bobcat fire north of Monrovia, California, on a mountainside in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020.

David McNew | Getty Images

In California, around 64,000 people are under evacuation orders while firefighters fight 29 major fires. According to Cal Fire, the state fire department, six of the 20 largest forest fires in the state's history occurred this year.

The bear fire, which filled the sky in Northern California with smoke, turning it dark yellow-orange, has evacuated thousands and damaged or destroyed approximately 2,000 buildings. It has become the tenth largest fire in California history.

Extreme heat and dry conditions due to climate change have sparked large fires in the west, which are further fueled by strong winds.

Firefighters have traveled from Texas, Colorado, and Utah to help fight the flames, but the emergency response measures are very thin as many of the fires are still not included. "Every fire department in Washington state wants more resources now," said Jay Inslee, Washington state governor.

State and local officials are concerned that some people have not been able to evacuate their homes that were decimated by the flames and expect the death toll to rise if search efforts continue.

Oregon residents evacuate north along Highway Highway 213 September 9, 2020 near Oregon City, Oregon.

Nathan Howard | Getty Images

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