At least 4 dead in Northwest as nearly 200 wildfires burn across western US

Thursday, September 10, 2020

At least seven people have died in the western United States as firefighters battle dozens of wildfires up and down the coast.

Nearly 200 wildfires across nine western states are currently burning.

In Okanogan County, Washington, a child died and his parents suffered third-degree burns when the family attempted to outrun the Cold Springs wildfire, authorities said. Sheriff Tony Hawley said the trio was discovered on the bank of the Columbia River after they abandoned the car they had been traveling in.

Three people were found dead in Butte County, California, the county's sheriff coroner, Kory Honea, confirmed Wednesday night.

"We are in the process of recovering the remains and investigating the scenes. We have not identified or notified the loved ones yet," he said.

In the fire perimeter in Butte County, approximately 4,200 structures have been damaged or destroyed.

Two people were found dead in a vehicle in Marion County, Oregon, Wednesday, after fire swept through the area on Monday. Sheriff Joe Kast said he fears that others will be found deceased.

Also in Oregon, another victim was found near the origin of the Almeda Fire that began near homes in Medford yesterday, officials said. The blaze is moving so fast that it is hard for firefighters to stay ahead of it, said Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler.

All of the structures in the path of the fire were left completely burned, according to fire officials. As of Wednesday afternoon the blaze had burned through 3,000 acres and was 0% contained.

Authorities went door-to-door to get people to leave their homes, but some refused, officials said. Their status is unknown.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act Wednesday as wildfires continued to spread throughout the state.

Former President Barack Obama tweeted about the fires Wednesday night, saying the effects of climate change are clearer than ever.

Oregon has at least 35 active fires, with more than 476,994 acres burning in the state, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

The fires have burned hundreds of homes, destroying a substantial amount of some communities, Brown told reporters Wednesday.

Brown said the fires could potentially "be the greatest loss of human life and property due to wildfire" in the state's history.

The Oregon fires, including the Beachie Creek, Lionshead, Holiday Farm and Almeda fires, have forced thousands to evacuate.

"For people and families in the evacuation areas, please listen to local calls to evacuate as needed -- these lifesaving measures can protect the lives of you and your loved ones, as well as our firefighters," Brown said.

As of midday Wednesday, The Beachie Creek Fire was 132,450 acres and was 0% contained, while the Lionshead Fire was 91,754 acres and and only 5% contained.

In neighboring California, the skies over Northern California turned orange as emergency personnel continued to battle multiple blazes there.

More than 14,000 firefighters are currently battling the blazes across millions of acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The destructive Creek Fire near Fresno, California, is burning at least 163,138 acres and was 0% contained as of 4 a.m. ET. The Creek Fire, the cause of which is still under investigation, has destroyed 65 structures and has forced many evacuations in Fresno County due to what authorities call an "immediate threat to life."

Santa Ana wind gusts between 40 to 50 mph overnight continued to fan the flames in Southern California.

The El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino, California, was 19% contained Wednesday, with 11,479 acres burned. The Valley Fire near San Diego was 17,565 acres with 11% contained.

At least 36 structures have been destroyed by the Valley Fire, with nine others damaged. Two injuries have been reported. The fire has forced several nearby communities to evacuate.

More than 10,000 acres are burning near the Angeles National Forest due to the Bobcat Fire, which is 0% contained. Residents and forest visitors have been evacuated from Big Santa Anita Canyon, Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Canyon, and Monrovia Canyon.

The Sheep Fire near the Plumas National Forest was 29,570 acres but 95% contained Wednesday. Authorities say this fire was caused by lightning.

So far this year, the state has had 7,606 fires and 2.3 million acres burned. In 2019, California had 4,927 fires and 118,000 acres burned, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Santa Ana winds were expected to calm down on Wednesday afternoon. All wind advisories and warnings have been discontinued, but red flag and critical fire danger warnings continue today up and down the West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles.

ABC News' Melissa Griffin, Jen Harrison, Leah Larosa and Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.

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