Updated Sep 9, 2020 - Science

Western states pummeled by wildfires and extreme weather

20 large wildfires are buring in Oregon and Washington as of Tuesday, per the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service.
20 large wildfires are burning in Oregon and Washington as of Tuesday, per the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service. Denver, Colorado, is being lashed by wintry weather. Combination photos: Forest Service NW/Twitter and Eli Imadali/AFP via Getty Images

The Western U.S. is being hit by wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres along the Pacific Coast, while Colorado has seen records for both hot and cold temperatures within three days.

Driving the news: California fighters are battling more than two dozen major fires, as PG&E cut power to 170,000 customers in a safety shutdown. In Oregon, thousands were forced to evacuate as several large wildfires ravage the state. In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) tweeted that 330,000 acres had burned in the state in a single day — "more than 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons."

What's happening: In California, dozens of people trapped by flames had to be rescued from the Sierra National Forest on Tuesday. In the Los Padres National Forest on California's central coast, several firefighters and operators were wounded, one critically, after being surrounded by fire at the Nacimiento Station.

  • The National Forest Service has temporarily closed forests, trails and campgrounds across the state

In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown (D) invoked an emergency conflagration declaration Tuesday to free up state resources to fight the fires. Wind was continuing to fuel the wildfires, "with devastating consequences" across state, she noted.

  • A massive wildfire has left the communities of Blue River and Vida are "a total loss — including an estimated 150 homes," the WasteWise Lane County said in a statement.
  • Brown described the situation at a news conference as "an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state."

In Washington, some 100,000 people were without power on Tuesday, Inslee said.

  • In the town of Malden, Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers confirmed in a statement that 80% of homes and other structures had been destroyed.
  • "The scale of this disaster really can't be expressed in words," Myers said.

In Colorado, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said the sudden change from searing heat to snow would give firefighters battling the massive Cameron Peak Fire in the state's north some relief, but it's "certainly not going to stop this fire."

  • The blaze is the fifth largest recorded in Colorado and has prompted evacuations as it burned across over 102,000 acres as of Tuesday, the Colorado Sun notes.

Of note: Denver on Tuesday tied with a 1962 record for the lowest temperature, as it hit 31°F, according to the National Weather Service.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout

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