At least five people are dead including a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother as 96 wildfires continue to rage across California, Oregon and Washington after already decimating an area the same size as Connecticut.
Strong winds and high temperatures fed nearly 100 extreme wildfires across the western United States on Wednesday, severely damaging at least two small towns in Oregon where the governor declared an emergency for 'unprecedented' blazes.
Firefighters in California, Washington and Oregon retreated from uncontrolled fires that forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes and hundreds of thousands to lose power in the three states.
The 96 large fires across California, Oregon and Washington have so far burned more than 3.4 million acres.
The 12-year-old boy and his grandmother died in a wildfire burning near the Santiam Valley community of Lyons, about 50 miles south of Portland. The boy's mother is currently in hospital in critical condition. In Washington state a one-year-old boy was killed and his parents severely burned fleeing a fire in Okanogan County, police said.
Three were feared dead in the California bear fire that swept through Butte County on Tuesday night but that number could rise with reported that there are at least 12 other people still are unaccounted.
This NASA Earth Observatory image shows satellite images captured on September 7, 2020, as smoke filled the skies across several US western states. In a few instances, fires grew so hot that they created pyrocumulus 'fire clouds' that lifted columns of smoke several miles into the atmosphere
An orange glow fills the sky above the Embarcadero as smoke from various wildfires burning across Northern California mixes with the marine layer, blanketing San Francisco in darkness, on September 9, 2020 in San Francisco, California
An orange sky filled with wildfire smoke hangs above hiking trails at the Limeridge Open Space in Concord, California
A singed ice machine sits over a burned store during the Bear fire, part of the North Lightning Complex fires, in unincorporated Butte County, California on Wednesday
Heat rising from the roadway blur the image of a fire truck driving through a burned out area in Bonney Lake, Washington south of Seattle
Firefighters wait under power lines for a helicopter to make a water drop on Wednesday on a hotspot of a wildfire burning in Bonney Lake
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, left, talks with firefighters, Wednesday, during a tour to survey wildfire damage
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Sacramento Bee that three people had been found dead with two in one location, and a third in another. Their identities have not yet been determined.
Firefighters retreated from uncontrollable blazes in Oregon as officials gave residents 'go now' orders to evacuate, meaning they had only minutes to leave their homes.
'It was like driving through hell,' Jody Evans told local television station NewsChannel21 after a midnight evacuation from Detroit, about 50 miles west of Salem.
Across the United States wildfires have burned nearly 4.7 million acres in 2020, the highest year-to-date area since 2018, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Most of the fires are in western states, where 17 new large blazes were reported on Wednesday, bringing the total to 96 that have burned more than 3.4 million acres - an area nearly the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut.
Over a century of efforts by federal and state agencies to suppress naturally occurring blazes have left forests replete with dry timber and brush that provides fuel for large wildfires.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural color image of thick smoke plumes streaming west from a long line of intense fires in Washington state, Oregon and California
Brown smoke from wildfires blowing westward in the atmosphere from California's Sierra Nevada to the Coast Ranges and from Oregon can be seen on Wednesday
Home construction has encroached on some forests in recent decades, and owners are watching their houses burn as firefighters are unable to save property.
'You add the winds, the dry conditions, the hot temperatures, it's the perfect recipe,' said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for California's state fire authority of the Creek Fire that has torched over 360 homes and other structures.
'This fire is just burning at an explosive rate.'
Winds of up to 50 miles per hour sent blazes racing tens of miles within hours, burning hundreds of homes as firefighters fought at least 35 major blazes across an area of Oregon nearly twice the size of New York City.
Parts of Medford, Oregon, a popular retirement location with over 80,000 residents in the state's scenic Rogue Valley, were under evacuation orders or warnings as a growing wildfire closed a section of Interstate 5, the primary north-south highway in the West.
The fire moved north to Medford from Ashland, where it started on Tuesday. The blaze did little damage to Ashland, home to the historic stages of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which normally draws more than 350,000 theatergoers a year.
Thick smoke is seen above Salem City, Orego in this picture obtained from social media taken on Tuesday
Red sky and thick smoke are seen in Salem City, Oregon in a picture that was taken earlier this week
Lori Kauwe of Salem, Ore., attends to one of hundreds of horses that were evacuated from wildfires in Oregon and brought to the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon
Hundreds of horses have been brought to the fairgrounds in Salem by people fleeing the fires, along with llamas, goats and other animals. The Red Cross is helping people at the fairgrounds, which has been turned into an evacuation center
But as the blaze moved northward, it heavily damaged the small town of Talent with about 6,000 residents and Phoenix, with around 5,000, according to local police..
Medford, with over 80,000 residents, was under evacuation orders or warnings as a growing wildfire closed a section of Interstate 5, the primary north-south highway in the West.
The fire is suspected so far to have caused one death north of Ashland, said Rich Tyler, spokesman for the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
Brown saw no respite to the hot, windy weather and requested a federal emergency declaration for the state.
'Absolutely no area in the state is free from fire,' said Doug Graf, chief of fire protection for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
The Oregon town of Mill City, about 65 miles south of Portland with a population around 1,900, also had major damage, and Malden, with about 200 people in eastern Washington state, was destroyed on Monday.
In central California, the Creek Fire about 35 miles north of Fresno tore through a forest killed by drought and bark beetles as U.S. military helicopters pulled campers, hikers and residents out of the area.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, talks to East Pierce Fire & Rescue Chief Bud Backer, left, and Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier about wildfires in the area
A helicopter flies over fires burning on a ridge in Sumner, Washington. The governor said Wednesday, warning: 'This could be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire in our state's history.'
Three chairs are all that remain at the Gates Post office in Gates, Oregon on Wednesday. The post office was destroyed along with several other buildings in the Santiam Canyon community as a result of the Santiam Fire
Robert Pylant, 65, locates his fire safe in the rubble of his mobile home, early Wednesday in Gates, Oregon. All the trailers in Oak Park Trailer Park were destroyed along with the majority of the homes along East Sorbin Avenue
A burned out house is seen after the passing of the Holiday Farm fire in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon on Wednesday
Hundreds of homes including entire communities were razed by wildfires in the western United States on September 9 as officials warned of potential mass deaths under apocalyptic orange skies
At least five towns were 'substantially destroyed' in Oregon as widespread evacuations took place across the northwestern state, governor Kate Brown said
A burned out house is seen after the passing of the Holiday Farm fire in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon on Wednesday
A a woman walks near the foundation of a burned out house after the passing of the Holiday Farm fire in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon
Oregon Governor Kate Brown called the extreme heat and wind a 'once in a lifetime event,' as climate scientists blamed human activities for higher average temperatures that have supercharged fires.
'This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state,' Brown told a press briefing.
'This could be the greatest loss in human lives and property due to wildfire in our state´s history,' Brown said, without providing details.
Officials said 64,000 people had been evacuated from their homes as 28 major fires raged across the most populated U.S. state.
Evacuations were ordered for a broad area around a massive 200,000-acre wildfire burning north of Sacramento. Residents of more than a dozen towns including the city of Oroville were either told to evacuate immediately or be prepared to go. The fire raged perilously close to the town of Paradise, which was burned to the ground in 2018 by a wildfire, killing 85 people.
Climate scientists blame global warming for extreme wet and dry seasons in the U.S. West that have caused grasses and scrub to flourish then dry out, leaving abundant fuel for fires.
In California, all 18 National Forests were closed due to 'unprecedented and historic fire conditions.'
To the south, the Creek Fire, about 35 miles north of Fresno, tore through the Sierra National Forest, which was susceptible due to drought and bark beetle damage, destroying over 360 homes and structures.
'This fire is just burning at an explosive rate,' said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for California's state fire authority. 'You add the winds, the dry conditions, the hot temperatures, it's the perfect recipe.'
A view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge under an orange overcast sky in the afternoon in San Francisco, California,
President Barack Obama tweeted his concern over the dangers of climate change and urged voters to vote
view of the Painted Ladies, the iconic row of historical Victorian homes with a downtown backdrop, under orange overcast sky in the afternoon in San Francisco on Wednesday
People gather at Alamo Square under an orange and yellow overcast sky overlooking the The Painted Ladies
A view of Cupid's Span, a sculpture by Claes Oldenburge and Coosje van Bruggen, in the foreground and the Ferry Building Clock Tower in the background under an orange overcast sky in the afternoon in San Francisco
Traffic lights and car lights illuminate California Street during an orange overcast sky over the financial district in the afternoon in San Francisco. California wildfire smoke high in the atmosphere over the San Francisco Bay Area blocked the sunlight and turned the sky a dark orange and yellow shade for most of the day
Under darkened skies from wildfire smoke, a sailboat makes its way past the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and lights at Oracle Park Wednesday,
People in San Francisco and elsewhere in California woke Wednesday to a deep orange sky that triggered apocalyptic visions in a year already rife with disturbing events.
Skies so dark at times that it appeared more night than day were accompanied in some places with ash falling like snow, the cause being massive wild fires filling the air with smoke and cinders.
'The orange skies this morning are a result of wildfire smoke in the air,' San Francisco Bay air quality officials said in a tweet.
'These smoke particles scatter blue light and only allow yellow-orange-red light to reach the surface, causing skies to look orange.'
As smoke gets thick in some areas, it blocks sunlight causing dark skies, the officials explained.
Photos of the eerie scene, particularly of a San Francisco skyline fit for a dystopian science fiction film, spread quickly on social media.
'Is there a word for 'the apocalypse is upon us burnt sienna?' read one tweet fired off by someone who felt using the word 'orange' to describe the sky was being too kind.
Others likened the scenes to planets other than Earth.
People from San Francisco to Seattle woke Wednesday to hazy clouds of smoke lingering in the air, darkening the sky to an eerie orange glow that kept street lights illuminated into midday, all thanks to dozens of wildfires throughout the West
Looking down Lombard Street, Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill at right and the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, are darkened by wildfire smoke
Under darkened skies from wildfire smoke, a waiter carries a tray of Irish Coffee to people having lunch at the Buena Vista Cafe Wednesday in San Francisco. The photo was taken just after midday
Lunchtime on Wednesday in San Francisco has an otherworldly glow about it