Desiree Pierce cries as she visits her home which was destroyed by the Almeda fire on Friday 11 September 2020 in Talent, Ore. "I just had to see it to close something," said Pierce.
John Locher | AP
Historic wildfires burn millions of acres and destroy homes in California, Oregon and Washington state as officials prepare for further deaths and evacuations.
The fires killed at least 20 people in the states and dozens more are missing. More than 1 million acres of Oregon land have been burned and at least 10% of the state's population is in evacuation zones. The state has dealt with the worst destruction as flames have already decimated two cities.
Oregon governor Kate Brown said Friday that people are still missing and more than 40,000 have fled their homes. The state is preparing for "mass extinction" and has declared a state of emergency. Authorities said a man had been arrested and charged with arson related to a fire in southern Oregon that burned hundreds of homes.
People stand in Alamo Square Park as smoke hangs over San Francisco, California on September 9, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
More than 3 million acres were burned in California, a record in state history. The August Complex, which began after a string of lightning strikes last month, has grown into California's biggest wildfire. The state's weather could potentially improve with less wind and some rain forecast.
California Governor Gavin Newsom gave a grim update on the situation Friday afternoon, saying the worst predictions of climate change had affected his state. He promised to direct his government to accelerate California's environmental goals and invest more in green energy.
"California, folks, is America's fast forward," Newsom said during a press conference in Butte County's Lake Oroville State Recreation Area, which was damaged by the North Complex fire. "What we are seeing here is that we will come to churches in the United States of America if we do not work together to fight climate change."
President Donald Trump will visit California on Monday where he will join local and federal fire and emergency officers for news of the fires. The President will visit McClellan Park in Sacramento County, where the Cal Fire State Fire Department is based.
Volunteer firefighter Dave White looks on after losing his home in a fire in Gates, Oregon on September 10, 2020.
Kathryn Elsesser | AFP | Getty Images
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the amount of land burned by the fires in the past five days represents the second worst fire season in the state after the 2015 season, and that the fires are being labeled climate fires rather than forest fires should. Fires in the state destroyed most homes in the town of Malden and killed a 1-year-old boy.
Climate change has triggered excessive heat and drought conditions worldwide that exacerbate forest fires. Fire-prone California saw six of the 20 largest forest fires in the state's history this year.
"This is not an act of God," Inslee said at a news conference on Friday. "This happened because we dramatically changed the climate in Washington State."
Texas governor Greg Abbott said Friday the state is sending around 190 additional firefighters and 50 more trucks to California. Firefighters are also being sent in from Utah and Colorado.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the fires showed that climate change is an "existential threat to the way we live."
"Our thoughts go with the millions of Americans who live right at the front of these fires and are being forced to settle in the middle of an ongoing pandemic or stay in a place where every breath forces them to inhale smoke," Biden said in a statement on Saturday.
"The science is clear and deadly signs like this are unmistakable – climate change is an immediate existential threat to the way we live," said Biden. "President Trump can try to deny this reality, but the facts are indisputable."
A car can be seen in the city that evacuated about 10,000 residents in Molalla, Oregon on September 11, 2020, and about 10,000 residents were evacuated.
Carlos Barria | Reuters