Wildfires are raging unchecked across parts of the western US, turning the sky over San Francisco orange and prompting fears of a record death toll in the worst-hit state, Oregon.
Three people have died in Oregon, where nearly 100 extreme bushfires are being stoked by high winds and temperatures. Three people have also died in California
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires have burned nearly 1.9 million hectares across the US
In California, where rescues and evacuations are underway, winds stoked an unprecedented number of fires and killed three people — one of them died in their car as they tried to escape the flames.
The fires turned San Francisco’s sky a hazy shade of orange on Wednesday. Drivers used their headlights during the day to see through the smog created by the fires.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the fires north-east of San Francisco, fire officials said at an evening news conference.
The fire also threatened Paradise, a town devastated just two years ago by the deadliest blaze in state history.
‘It was like driving through hell’
Firefighters in all three states retreated from uncontrolled blazes that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and left hundreds of thousands more without power.
“It was like driving through hell,” Jody Evans told local television station NewsChannel21 after a midnight evacuation from Detroit, a small, isolated town on Lake Detroit, south-east of Oregon’s capital, Portland.
Climate scientists have blamed global warming for extreme wet and dry seasons in the US West.
The cycle has caused grasses and scrubs to flourish, then dry out, leaving fuel that supercharges wildfires.
In California, all 18 national forests were closed due to what the US Forest Service called “unprecedented and historic fire conditions”.