California residents are comparing the Bay Area’s apocalyptic orange skies to scenes from Blade Runner 2049 while Los Angeles suffers the worst smog in 26 years and its air quality plummets to the poorest in the world as wildfires continue to rip across the West Coast leaving at least 23 dead.
Almost 100 major fires continue to rage across 12 states, devastating almost 4.4 million acres and wiping out thousands of homes in their paths.
California, Oregon and Washington state have been hardest-hit with more than 500,000 Oregonians – 10 percent of the population – forced to evacuate after 1,400 square miles have been scorched statewide in the last week alone causing the major city of Portland to declare a state of emergency.
In Northern California, the North Complex fire that destroyed a foothill hamlet is now the state’s deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead – and the toll could climb as emergency crews desperately search for 16 missing people.
Four other deaths have been confirmed in Oregon and one in Washington state.
Areas that have so far escaped the blazes unscathed are now in the grips of dangerously poor air quality, with San Francisco blanketed in thick smog and its air quality now the joint worst in the world with Dubai.
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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: The worst of the lung-damaging ozone pollution was in San Francisco and Oakland – the Golden Gate bridge was almost camouflaged against the orange hue – and also in Sonoma County, particularly the town of Sebastopol
BLADE RUNNER 2049: California residents are comparing the Bay Area’s apocalyptic orange skies to scenes from Blade Runner 2049
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday as smog from the wildfires screen the sun on the horizon
MEDFORD, OREGON: A person walks past gutted homes in the Medford Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of the Almeda fire in Medford which authorities are investigating as possible arson
PHOENIX, OREGON: Drone footage shows a mobile home park in Phoenix, Oregon, on Thursday totally destroyed by the wildfires sweeping across the state and the rest of the West Coast
The map above shows 103 fires that have already burned more than 3.4 million acres across the western United States
This comes as:
- Authorities announced the cause of the deadly Almeda fire in Oregon that has so far killed two – a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother – and destroyed hundreds of homes is now under investigation as a potential arson attack.
- The National Weather Service revealed that a staggering 87 percent of all US wildfires in 2020 have been caused by humans.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the wildfires are proof of the climate crisis and warned Americans that ‘Mother Earth is angry.’ Pelosi told MSNBC Thursday: ‘She’s telling us – whether she’s telling us with hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, fires in the West, whatever it is… that the climate crisis is real and has an impact.’
- Officials denied reports spreading on social media that fires have been started by far-left group Antifa and far-right group Proud Boys and told residents to dismiss the rumors spread by unofficial sources.
Parts of California were shrouded in burnt orange skies Thursday, with residents taking to social media to describe the sight to the end-of-the-world movies and, in particular, Blade Runner 2049.
The skies above the Bay Area and the Golden Gate Bridge were lit up with flaming orange hues and there were some reports of ash falling from the skies.
The hotly-anticipated follow-up to the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner was released in 2017 and was famed for its orange scenes set in Las Vegas in 2049.
At the time, some critics blasted the scenes as unrealistic but social media users pointed out this week that the reality was closer than anyone anticipated.
The orange skies have been caused by a combination of the smoke fumes from the wildfires mixed with clouds and fog and blocking out the sunlight in the Golden State.
Unlike earlier in the week when high winds swept a lot of the smoke out to sea, the air quality deteriorated considerably across the state by Thursday morning.
The worst of the lung-damaging ozone pollution was in San Francisco and Oakland – the Golden Gate bridge was almost camouflaged against the orange hue – and also in Sonoma County, particularly the town of Sebastopol.
IQAir, which measures air quality throughout the world, found that San Francisco was tied with Dubai in the UAE with having the world’s worst air quality with an index of 167 parts per billion at 10am, considered ‘very unhealthy’ and way above the federal standard of 70ppb.
In rural areas such as Yosemite National Park that AQI level soared to 400ppb, the LA Times reported.
Lung-damaging ozone pollution spiked to 185ppb in downtown LA at midday on Sunday, the highest reading in Southern California since 2003 and highest in the city for 26 years.
PHOENIX, OREGON: An aerial shot from a drone of a mobile home park destroyed by fire in Phoenix, Oregon, on Thursday. More than 500,000 Oregonians were forced to flee the wildfires
PHOENIX, OREGON: Fire-ravaged homes in Oregon are seen from above on Thursday
PHOENIX, OREGON: In this aerial view from a drone, a mobile home park destroyed by fire is shown on September 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Oregon. Hundreds of homes in the town have been lost due to wildfire
PHOENIX, OREGON: Phoenix was reduced to a wasteland by the ferocious fires which have been raging across the West Coast
PHOENIX, OREGON: West Coast authorities have reported that at least 23 people have died in wildfires that are raging in California, Oregon and Washington state. This aerial view shows a mobile home park in Phoenix, Oregon, that was destroyed by a fire
PHOENIX, OREGON: Hundreds of homes in Phoenix, Oregon (mobile home park pictured), have been lost due to wildfires in the state
CALIFORNIA: The Bobcat Fire consumes a forest in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020 north of Monrovia, California. California wildfires that have already incinerated a record 2.3 million acres this year and are expected to continue till December. The Bobcat Fire has grown to about 24,00 acres, and is 6% contained.
CALIFORNIA: Flames are seen at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020 north of Monrovia, California
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: People watch as thick smoke from the Bobcat fire moves through downtown Los Angeles, California, on Thursday
OREGON CITY, OREGON: Oregon residents evacuate north along highway Highway 213 on Wednesday near Oregon City, Oregon. As of Thursday night, more than 500,000 Oregonians – 10 per cent of the state’s population – have been forced to evacuate
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: The Golden Gate Bridge is seen at 11am on Wednesday in San Francisco, amid a smoky, orange hue caused by the ongoing wildfires
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: More than 14,000 firefighters are battling 28 fires across California, according to the Department of Fires and Forestry Protection. An exhausted Cal Fire crew were seen taking a break in the grass next to Berry Creek Elementary School, which was destroyed overnight during the Bear Fire on Wednesday
GATES, OREGON: A bird bath is seen in front of the charred remains of a home after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon, on Thursday
TALENT, OREGON: A neighborhood destroyed by fire is seen as wildfires devastate the region on Thursday in Talent, Oregon
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: A Coulson 737 firefighting tanker jet drops fire retardant to slow Bobcat Fire at the top of a major run up a mountainside in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020 north of Monrovia, California
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: The Bobcat Fire advances in the Angeles National Forest on September 10, 2020 north of Monrovia, California
Authorities in Oregon said Thursday night that more than 500,000 people statewide were forced to evacuate due to wildfires.
The latest figures, from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, show more than 10 per cent of the state’s 4.2 million population have fled the deadly fires.
More than 1,400 square miles have burned this week in the state.
Authorities said the wildfire activity was particularly acute Thursday afternoon in northwestern Oregon as hot, windy conditions continued.
At least four people have been killed including a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother who were found dead with their dog after trying to escape the Santiam Fire in Marion County.
Governor Kate Brown said Thursday more Oregonians have been killed but the exact number is not yet known.
The Oregon Department of Corrections said it was evacuating the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, 16 miles south of Portland, as two growing fires appeared to be merging and headed for the facility.
This came after three other prisons near Oregon’s capital city of Salem were forced to evacuate inmates and staff earlier in the week.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency Thursday, shuttering public parks and spaces, homing the city’s homeless and activating evacuation shelters for displaced residents in the state’s largest city.
Officials warned that emergency crew resources are in short supply in the city, after many were drafted to tackle blazes in other parts of the state.
In California, the North Complex fire is now the state’s deadliest blaze of the year with 10 people confirmed dead.
Butte County sheriff’s deputies and detectives found seven bodies on Thursday, a day after three other victims were discovered.
Among those unaccounted for are Sandy Butler and her husband, who called their son to say they were going to try to escape the flames by finding shelter in a pond.
‘We’re still hoping and praying for good news,’ said Jessica Fallon, who has two children with the Butler’s grandson and considers them her own grandparents.
‘Everything is replaceable, but not my grandparents’ lives. I’d rather lose everything than those two. They kind of held the family together.’
The North Complex fire was advancing more slowly Friday after the winds eased and smoke from the blaze shaded the area and lowered the temperature, allowing firefighters to make progress, authorities said.
GATES, ORGEON: A charred vehicle is seen in the parking lot of the burned Oak Park Motel after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon on Thursday
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: A Butte Sheriff officer checks on a vehicle that was burned in the Bear Fire near Lake Oroville in Northern California on Thursday
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: An air attack plane flies by the plume of the colossal wildfire raging in the Angeles National Forest on Thursday
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: Mormon Lake Hotshots firefighter Sara Sweeney uses a drip torch to set a backfire to protect mountain communities from the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on September 10
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: Firemen monitor the advance of the raging wildfire in Angeles National Park on Thursday
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: Felled tree trunks burning in the Angeles National Forest on Thursday
GATES, ORGEON: A charred swing set and car are seen after the passage of the Santiam Fire in Gates, Oregon, on Thursday
GATES, OREGON: The charred remains of the Gates Elementary School in Oregon on Thursday after the inferno ripped through the town
More bodies could be found as crews manage to make their way into devastated areas.
A team of anthropologists from Chico State University were helping in the search, sheriff’s Capt Derek Bell said.
The weeks-old fire was about 50 per cent contained when winds thrashed it into explosive growth on Tuesday, driving it through rugged Sierra Nevada foothills and destroying much of the town of Berry Creek.
More than 2,000 homes and other buildings had burned in the lightning-sparked collection of fires now known as the North Complex burning about 125 miles northeast of San Francisco.
Forecasters said there was some good news on the weather front: winds were expected to remain lighter this week in the fire area, while dense smoke actually knocked down the temperature slightly and was expected to kept the humidity somewhat higher.
The fire is among five this year that have set records for the most land ever burned, including a blaze that broke the mark Thursday as the largest ever.
More than 4,800 square miles have burned so far this year – more land than Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington, DC, combined – and fall is typically the worst season for fires.
Nineteen people have been killed and nearly 4,000 structures have burned across the state.
GRIDLEY, CALIFORNIA: People fleeing from wildfires in Northern California gather at a temporary evacuation point in Gridley, California, on Thursday
GRIDLEY, CALIFORNIA: A sign warning of impending fire danger is posted on a roadway in Estacada, Oregon. Multiple wildfires grew by hundreds of thousands of acres Thursday, prompting large-scale evacuations throughout the state
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: Members of the Mormon Hot Shots from Arizona lay hose line down rugged terrain off Highway 39 near Crystal Lake in front of the Bobcat Fire, which has burned more than 23,000 acres on Thursday
LEABURG, OREGON: Firefighters work on mopping up a back burn near Leaburg, Oregon, on Thursday. A dearth of resources has hampered the fight against the Holiday Farm Fire
MOLALLA, OREGON: An orange smoke-filled sky is seen above Molalla, Oregon, on Thursday as fires burn nearby
The fires, fed by drought-sapped vegetation amid warming temperatures attributed to climate change, have spread at an alarming rate and given people less time to flee.
Hundreds of campers, hikers, and people spending Labor Day weekend at mountainside reservoirs and retreats had to be evacuated by military helicopters when they got stranded by a fast-moving fire that broke out in the Sierra National Forest in the center of the state during record-setting high temperatures.
President Donald Trump spoke with Gov Gavin Newsom on Thursday ‘to express his condolences for the loss of life and reiterate the administration’s full support to help those on the front lines of the fires,’ according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.
The North Complex fire is the 10th largest in the record books and growing as firefighters try to prevent it from advancing toward the town of Paradise, where the most destructive fire in state history two years ago killed 85 people and destroyed 19,000 buildings.
Authorities lifted an evacuation warning for Paradise on Thursday, the day after residents awoke to similar skies as the 2018 morning when a wind-whipped inferno reduced the town to rubble.
Under red skies and falling ash Wednesday, many chose to flee again, jamming the main road out of town in another replay of the catastrophe two years ago.
About 20,000 people were under evacuation orders or warnings in three counties from the fire.
OROVILLE, CALIFORNIA: Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, California, Wednesday night. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded at a critical rate of spread as winds buffeted the region
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: Flames consume a home and car as the Bear Fire burns through the Berry Creek area of Butte County, California, on Wednesday
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: Flames shoot from a window as the Bear Fire burns through the Berry Creek area of Butte County, California, in Wednesday
MONROVIA, CALIFORNIA: The Bobcat Fire consumes a forest in the Angeles National Forest on Thursday north of Monrovia, California
Some 14,000 firefighters continued to try to corral 29 major wildfires from the Oregon border to just north of Mexico, though California was almost entirely free of critical fire weather warnings after days of hot, dry conditions and the threat of strong winds.
Smoke blew into vineyards in wine country north of San Francisco, and rose above scenic Big Sur on the Central Coast and in the foothills and mountains of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties in the southern part of the state.
Numerous fires continued to burn in Washington and Oregon, as well, and dense smoke blanketed much of the West Coast on Thursday morning, darkening skies with hazardous air pollution.
Authorities in Washington state announced the arrest of a second person for intentionally starting a brush fire in Pierce County.
State troopers said a witness saw the man setting fire to grass with a match near State Route 512 and State Route 7 and called police. After a brief chase, troopers arrested the individual.
The recent arrest follows that of a 36-year-old Puyallup man who was taken into custody for allegedly starting a large brushfire which temporarily shut down state Route 167 and several ramps near Meridian Avenue.
In Oregon, a fire raging along the Oregon border destroyed 150 homes near the community of Happy Camp and one person was confirmed dead, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office said. About 400 more homes were threatened.
The fire that roared into the hamlet of Berry Creek, with a population of 525, incinerated countless homes and largely destroyed Camp Okizu, a summer getaway for children with cancer.
A crew fighting the fire was overrun by flames when winds shifted and its members escaped with only minor injuries after deploying emergency shelters.
It was the second time in two days that firefighters in California had to take the rare last-ditch effort to save their lives.
Fallon, who had driven from the San Francisco Bay Area after hearing the Butlers were missing Wednesday morning, waited with her toddler son and 2-year-old daughter with dozens of evacuees gathered at a fairgrounds in the small city of Gridley, trembling in morning cold.
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: A scorched car rests in a clearing following the Bear Fire in Butte County, California, on Wednesday
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: A hand crew works to save a home as the Bear Fire burns through the Berry Creek area of Butte County, California, on Wednesday
BERRY CREEK, CALIFORNIA: A hand crew clears vegetation from around a barn as the Bear Fire burns through the Berry Creek area of Butte County, California, on Wednesday
Among them was Douglas Johnsrude, who packed up his eight dogs and fled his home in the community of Feather Falls on Tuesday.
Johnsrude said he assumed his house trailer burned, which would be the second time he’s lost his home in a fire. He inherited his mother’s house after her death, but it was destroyed in a 2017 fire.
‘The reason I haven’t rebuilt up there is because I knew it was going to happen again. And guess what? It happened again,’ he said. ‘Seeing the smoke and the flames and everything else, it’s unreal. It’s like an apocalypse or something.’
Butte County spokeswoman Amy Travis described the evacuation center as a staging area while officials line up hotel rooms for families displaced by the fire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘COVID has changed the way we do sheltering,’ she said. ‘We don’t have a lot of hotel rooms here in Butte County, and a lot of them are definitely busy with people that have already made their own hotel arrangements for evacuations.’
Fallon said she’d been peppering hospitals with phone calls in search of her grandparents.
Her daughter, Ava, doesn’t understand what’s going on. She thinks they’re camping. The girl typically speaks with her great-grandmother two to three times a day.
‘I´m tossing and turning. I have just such bad anxiety. I’m just really worried about my grandparents,’ Fallon said. ‘I’m hoping that they’re up there sitting in some water waiting to be rescued.’
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: People watch as thick smoke from the Bobcat fire moves through Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 10, 2020
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: An airplane flies above the thick smog from the Bobcat fire moving through Los Angeles, California, on Thursday
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Visitors look out across the horizon on Thursday staggered by the thick smog sweeping in from the forest wildfires
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: A view of downtown Los Angeles under an orange overcast sky in the afternoon in Los Angeles, California, USA, 10 September 2020. California wildfire smoke high in the atmosphere all over the state blocked the sunlight and turned the sky orange and yellow for most of the day
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Downtown Los Angeles is seen blanketed by thick smoke amid the worst air pollution in decades caused by wildfires