Updated Sep 13, 2020 - Energy & Environment

West Coast fires kill at least 31 as Oregon braces for "mass fatality event"

In this aerial view from a drone, a police patrol car drives by apartment homes destroyed by wildfire on September 12, 2020 in Talent, Oregon.
An aerial view of a police patrol car driving by apartment homes destroyed by wildfire on Sept. 12. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Deadly wildfires sweeping the West have displaced tens of thousands of people, per AP, as officials in Oregon warn of a "mass fatality event."

Of note: 10 deaths have been confirmed in Oregon, 20 in California, and one in Washington state this fire season. Most fatalities have occurred this past week. The death tolls are expected to rise sharply in coming days.

  • In Oregon, emergency management director Andrew Phelps said the state was "preparing for a mass fatality event." Phelps told MSNBC, "There are going to be a number of fatalities, folks who just couldn't get warning in time and evacuate their homes and get to safety."

The big picture: 97 large fires have burned millions of acres across the western part of the U.S., per USA TODAY.

  • Evacuation orders were in place in six states including, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah.
  • Rescue workers and firefighters, meanwhile, are searching for dozens of missing people in California and Oregon.
  • President Trump, who was criticized for remaining silent on the fires for at least three weeks, plans to visit California on Monday.
  • Officials along the West Coast have urged people to stay in doors as smoke from the fires continue to choke the region.
In photos: Wildfires rage across the West
A burned vehicle sits in front of a home destroyed in the North Complex fire in Berry Creek, California.
A burned vehicle sits in front of a home destroyed in the North Complex fire in Berry Creek, California, on Sept. 11. Photo: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Los Angeles County firefighters, using only hand tools, keep fire from jumping a fire break at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest
Los Angeles County firefighters, using only hand tools, keep fire from jumping a fire break at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest, north of Monrovia, California, on Sept. 11. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
The Bobcat Fire burns through the Angeles National Forest on September 11, 2020 north of Monrovia, California.
The Bobcat Fire burns through the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 11. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images
In this aerial view from a drone, homes destroyed by wildfire are seen on September 12, 2020 in Talent, Oregon. Hundreds of homes in Talent and nearby towns have been lost due to wildfire.
A aerial view on Sept. 12 of the destruction from a wildfire that swept through Talent, Oregon. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images
The sun sets through wildfire smoke in Seattle, Washington.
The sun sets through wildfire smoke in Seattle, Washington, on Sept. 11. Photo: Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the fires and to reflect the rise in the death toll.

Go deeper