Parts of the West Coast looked like hell on Earth as ferocious wildfires — made worse by dry conditions and wind gusts — continued to rage Wednesday.
The infernos are scorching through hundreds of thousands of acres in California, Oregon and Washington, forcing mass evacuations and rescues.
The National Interagency Fire Center reported Wednesday that 96 large fires are burning in 12 states and scorched more than 3.4 million acres (5,300 square miles — about the size of Connecticut).
Twenty-six were reported in Washington and Oregon, while 24 were raging in California.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Oregon — where a wildfire in the Santiam Canyon region turned the sky apocalyptic shades of deep red and orange, sending smoke wafting through the air in nearby Salem.
“This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state,” said Brown, Oregon Live reported.
The Santiam fire and the so-called Lionshead fire have leveled an estimated 200,000 acres (300 square miles), according to the outlet.
Thousands of Oregonians were forced to evacuate immediately, with Brown warning that “people’s homes, lives and land are at risk.”
One resident, Crew Dutler, shot heartbreaking video showing the city of Talent, in the southwestern part of the state, engulfed in flames, when suddenly, a fireball explodes in the background. Dutler believed the blast was in the vicinity of the Talent Irrigation Building.
“We all need to do everything we can to minimize every single spark because, w/these conditions, a spark could easily result in a wildfire,” the post said.
Marion County resident Jody Evans, who lives in Detroit, Oregon, said evacuating was harrowing.
“Fire on both sides, winds blowing, ash flying — it was like driving through hell,” she told NewsChannel 21. She said fleeing left her with one question: “Did you lose everything, or is the only thing you saved yourself?”
In California, two of the three largest fires in state history have been tearing through the San Francisco Bay Area for the past three weeks, though they are now mostly contained. More than 14,000 firefighters are battling the blazes.
Flames sent 14 smoke-eaters fleeing from the Nacimiento Station, a fire station in the Los Padres National Forest on the state’s central coast, the US Forest Service said. Some suffered burns and smoke inhalation and three were flown to a hospital in Fresno, with one in critical condition.
Residents in the Sierra National Forest have been rescued via helicopters over the past three days, with fires destroying 365 buildings and at least 45 homes. Fire officials said about 5,000 buildings were threatened.
Infernos were also burning in Southern California, in the mountains of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties — with the notorious Santa Ana winds threatening to push flames into communities.
One of the blazes was sparked by a gender-reveal party gone wrong in El Dorado Ranch Park in Yucaipa, San Bernardino County. That fire has spread to more than 10,500 acres (16 square miles).
The fires have raged in the West under gusty, dry conditions — though some respite, in the form of cooler, calmer weather, may be in sight.
“The significantly colder airmass is helping reduce critical fire conditions across the West, however, most of West coastline and adjacent counties have Red Flag warnings in effect for part of today,” the National Weather Service said Wednesday.
Winds were expected to decrease by Thursday, “bringing some relief to the ongoing fires and fire weather threat,” forecasters said.
Nearly 2.3 million acres (3,600 square miles) have burned this year in California, surpassing a record set two years ago.
Studies have linked the increase in wildfires in the US to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, with climate change making California drier and plants more flammable.
With Post wires
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