Updated Sep 10, 2020 - Energy & Environment

At least 7 dead as scores of wildfires ravage Northwest

A person surrounded by fire in Oregon looks at a burning field.

Photo: Oregon State Fire Marshall/Twitter

A 1-year-old boy is among at least seven people to have died in wildfires burning hundreds of thousands of acres in the Northwest U.S. this week, officials in Okanogan County, Washington, confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: Powerful winds are fueling scores of fires as thousands of people remain under evacuation orders in California, Washington state and Oregon.

In California, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Wednesday at least three people died in the Bear Fire that began in a remote region of the state's north — triggering evacuation orders for 20,000 residents, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

  • California firefighters are battling more than two dozen blazes, which are prompting road closures and causing poor air quality in the state's south — where potentially lung-damaging fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has been observed.

In Oregon, Sheriff Joe Kast said Wednesday two bodies had been found in a vehicle in Marion County, where the Santiam Fire has burned some 159,000 acres, the Statesman Journal notes.

  • The Almeda Fire that began Tuesday at Medford has killed at least one person after sweeping through Ashland through Talent and Phoenix, Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler said, KDRV reports. Some residents were under partial evacuation Tuesday night.
  • Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in this blaze, the New York Times notes. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) said, "This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state’s history."

In Washington, Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley said the parents of the 1-year-old boy killed in the Cold Springs Fire that's burned about 163,000 acres were being treated in hospital for third-degree burns after being found near the wildfire, per the Seattle Times.

  • Gov. Jay Inslee (D) took a 30-minute tour of Sumner, south of Seattle, where the 800-acre Sumner Grade Fire that's 20% contained destroyed four homes, King-TV reports.
  • Inslee noted that the blaze was "just one example of probably the most catastrophic fires we've had in the history of the state."

Of note: California's wildfires have burned more land in the state than any other year on record — almost 2.3 million acres, per Cal Fire.

  • Eight people have been killed by flames and 4,311 structures destroyed or damaged in California this year, according to Cal Fire.

Go deeper: In photos: San Francisco Bay Area enveloped in smoke as wildfires rage across California

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details from the fires and further context.

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