OROVILLE, Calif. – Wildfires raced through more than a dozen Western states Thursday, incinerating homes, forcing hundreds of thousands of evacuations, and burning a swath of land almost the size of New Jersey.
At least 23 people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed by more than 100 major fires that have consumed nearly 7,000 square miles. Authorities in Oregon say more than 500,000 people statewide have been forced to evacuate because of wildfires – over 10% of the state’s 4.2 million population.
“Unprecedented weather conditions have created emergency situations near wildfires throughout California, Oregon, Washington and other states,” the National Fire Information Center warned. “Almost half of the large fires reported today have evacuation orders in place.”
Nineteen deaths have been reported in California, three in Oregon and one in Washington state. In Northern California’s Butte County, Sheriff Kory Honea said at least 10 people have died, including seven more added to the death toll Thursday. Dozens are missing and hundreds of homes were feared destroyed by a series of blazes 125 miles northeast of San Francisco called the North Complex fires.
Several people have been critically burned and thousands more homes were threatened. At least 20,000 people were under evacuation orders or warnings in Plumas, Yuba and Butte counties.